Godwin Muzari Memory Lane
It started as a gathering of few musicians that were dedicated to spreading the word of God through music and later grew into one of the biggest gospel music festivals in the country. Nguva Yakwana Music Concert will forever be remembered as an important launch pad for many gospel artistes that have made it in the industry.
It was also an exciting event that brought in South African musicians like Vuyo Mokoena, Lundi Tyamara, Buhle Nhlangulela and Tembinkosi Booi for memorable performances.
The concert was last held in the country 14 years ago. The event folded when its founder and director Bishop Admire Kasi relocated to the UK.
Kasi returned home in March with good news that Nguva Yakwana is bouncing back this year.
The groundwork is being done ahead of the “reloaded” concert set to be held in Harare this November. Sponsors are coming on board for the concert with the main contributor so far being Reliable Steelers, which is likely to be the event’s platinum sponsor.
Most musicians that were part of the concert before it went into hibernation have expressed willingness to share the stage and revive memories of the good old days when fans would fill the Harare International Conference Centre to capacity at the gospel fete.
This week Kasi went down memory lane and revisited some of the highlights of Nguva Yakwana concert.
He recalled how the event was born out of a concept that sought to push gospel music in the mid-1980s.
“There was more foreign content than local on our airwaves. Local gospel music was struggling to penetrate the mainstream market. We started doing free shows that were held solely at personal expense,” Kasi recalled.
“I would call in bands including CCAP Voice of Mbare, Brian Sibalo and the Gospel Train among other gospel groups of the time.
“I had the hand and help of Dr Noah Pashapa who became the first presenter of the first Radio 3 (now Power FM) gospel music session at 7pm every Saturday. He named it ‘Beat with a Message’. Noah and I worked towards the dominance of gospel music.”
Kasi said they had to have negotiations with record companies, radio stations and many other stakeholders in the arts industry to push gospel music to compete with other popular local genres and foreign music that dominated that time.
Kasi went on to establish Gospel Train Records, which became one of the few locally-owned studios to compete with big companies that were mainly linked to South African labels.
“We now had achieved fully fledged label, The Gospel Train Records, one of the first two to compete with Gramma, the other one was RTP (Record and Tape Promotions). Later on we found the doors opening and music competing on TV and radio, audience began to respect and follow the music.
“Gospel musicians took centre stage and we recorded the album ‘Nguva Yakwana’ by Ivy Kombo. The album was meant to announce that it was time for gospel music to dominate, so we said ‘nguya yakwana’.
“It was recorded in our own studios. We had brought in the first digital recording system into the country. Gospel Train Records broke barriers and opened its doors for any talented musician to record. The big companies had stringent conditions that frustrated many talented artistes and caused many careers to suffer stillbirth.”
The Gospel Train founder said the growth of gospel music also led to the growth of the free concert they were organising, which culminated in the founding of Nguva Yakwana Concert.
“Nguva Yakwana was launched in the Harare Gardens with the first appearance of Vuyo from South Africa. Six months later, we held it again at the same venue and Lundi also from South Africa graced it. It grew bigger until we decided to move to HICC where it was to be held for many years to come.
“We also launched the Bulawayo edition of the concert and it was well received. Many people have sweet memories of the event and its return in November should come as a relief to many that have been calling for its resuscitation.”
Indeed, the concert has great memories because almost all gospel musicians of that time — established and upcoming — graced the Nguva Yakwana stage.
Names like Fungisai Zvakavapano, Baba naMai Patai, Ruth Mapfumo, Jackie Madondo, Prince Mafukidze, Kudzi Nyakudya, Vabati VaJehovah and many others were part of the concert.
Ivy and her friends from South Africa usually provided the main acts of the event.
However, Kasi also has sad memories about Nguva Yakwana and the darkest hour in the history of the event came when Jackie Madondo was involved in a car accident on her way to the concert and later died in hospital.
It was in November 2004 when Jackie was on her way to HICC with her one-month-old baby when she was involved in a head-on collision. Her baby also died. Jackie was 24 when she died.
Kasi recalled the sombre atmosphere that engulfed the HICC when news of the accident reached them.
“We got the message that she had been seriously injured and taken to hospital. Many people were waiting for her performance because her song ‘Mazuva Acho’ was making waves. We all prayed. The concert went on, but many people were affected by the news. She died later in hospital and it was a blow to the music industry.”
Kasi said he was close to the Madondo family because Jackie’s father, Grant and his wife Mary had taken care of him when he was young. Kasi said Madondo was a pastor with Zaoga Church and had mentored him in many ways.
It was at Nguva Yakwana that Jackie introduced her sister Marble to the big stage. Marble now leads a talented gospel group and is expected to be part of the reloaded Nguva Yakwana.
Kasi also said the concert will return in a big way and thanked sponsors for coming on board to support the gospel cause.
“I want to thank sponsors that have shown interest in working with us. My brother Harrison Marange was among the first to chip in ahead of the concert. His company Reliable Steelers is the main sponsor so far.”
Marange, who also runs Enhanced Mortgaging and Housing, Enhanced Uniforms and Enhanced Hardware, said his companies are committed to the development of the arts.
Enhanced Mortgaging and Housing recently appointed Alick Macheso as their ambassador and the sungura musician has been assisting his fellow artistes to acquire residential stands at affordable rates.
The housing company targets low-income earners and self-employed clients. Marange said it is with that aim to promote arts in the country that Reliable Steelers will be bankrolling Nguva Yakwana.
“Reliable Steelers specialises in steel and wood products for construction work as artisanal work.
“Although we are into construction work, we are proud to be associated with artistes. We know our partnership with Nguva Yakwana will bring something interesting to musicians and music fans. We want the concert to grow bigger and even surpass the standards of its yesteryear editions,” said Marange.