Home » Arts & Culture » Zim’s Showbiz Converts

The power of music suspends every faculty and revolves the world around the object of affection. Musicians are power brokers – a fact universally acknowledged by corporates, politicians, suitors, athletes, all and sundry – hence their tag-along function in just about anything that takes influence to effect.

Regrettably, when most musicians profess to ditch the secular for the pulpit, they underestimate the influence of music and fail to turn it to their evangelical aantage.

In some cases, a previously successful musician only manages a wafer-thin post-conversion discography before going into early retirement.

Several local musicians, notably Noel Zembe, Culture T, David Mabvuramiti, Zexie Manatsa, Mr Bulk, Jordan Chataika, Susan Chenjerai and the original female third of urban groove outfit 2BG, Rutendo Muchirahondo, had experiences which prompted them to cross over from secular musician into the church.

However, instead of maintaining their previous stage command, some of them suddenly hung their guitars while most of them became less prolific and took long interludes between their gospel projects.

Conversion must not be a case for retirement. If anything, it must propel the musicians to greater heights of artistic achievement.

It must not facilitate professional relapse. On the contrary, it must spur the artist into a workaholic mode, not least because he or she will have discovered a message greater by far.

The experience of conversion and new life must have its own pure and consecrated lyrical equivalents which must far outsoar hitherto secular efforts.

It is not morally justifiable to set a high artistic bar by singing impassioned ditties for women, money, politics and other dimensions of social commentary only to falter below one’s own standards when after crossing over to gospel.

One tendency among showbiz converts is to pick hymns and choruses from the public domain for cover versions with a different instrumental flair and a few add-ons.

While this is all good, it cannot substitute the emotive facility and novelty of coming up with original compositions. In any case, the power of traditional hymns inheres in their motivation from lived experience.

Our own musicians have experiences different from Wesley, Watts, Cowper and other composers. There is more power in transposing these personal experiences and direct devotional influences into original compositions with the same level of refinement.

Rutendo Muchirahondo became a Christian, having cheated death after falling off a balcony in 2005. She turned her back on her then popular group to attend to the claims of her new faith, promising to sing only gospel thenceforth.

However, she went silent and never captured her epiphany in music. We can only imagine how richer the fraternity could have been had she used her talent to musically reach out to fellow youths with the gospel.

Zexie Manatsa occupies a special place in local music history, having been the first native artist to bag a gold disc for his best-selling early offering.

A life-threatening accident and subsequent downturn in his musical and financial fortunes saw Manatsa taking to the bottle.

It was during this time that he accepted the Lord, took a pastoral vocation and gospel music mission, a transition that saw his popular band being rechristened from Green Arrows to Gospel Arrows.

Unfortunately, Manatsa never matched his former stature and his new music had a lukewarm reception. For a person of his creative genius, having recorded dance-along ditties to national acclaim, the onus is on Pastor Manatsa to summon himself and perform again.

Other artists’ stock actually rose with the switch from secular to gospel music, if not in prolificacy then in the quality of their work. The stubborn hitch remains that most of them significantly scaled down operations and are not giving to God as much as they gave to Caesar.

Noel Zembe started off in the rookie ensemble “Frontline Kids”, later the “Frontline Krew”, before going solo, with a secular single.

Before long he draped the gospel mantle and did a memorable jam “Masodzi” with the group Youth in Action.

Zembe went on to drop successful offerings like “Rangariro”, featuring the hit track “Ndaiwana Hama” which went on to be Radio Zimbabwe’s Song of the Year, “Ndega Ndega”, “Pinda Mudanga”‘ and recently, the Return of Noel Zembe.

Zembe’s popularity has taken a slump, possibly due to long recording sabbaticals, but his latest album released year after he his involvement in an accident which saw him undergoing an operation, attests commendable resilience.

Culture T, born Tendai Gamure Munengami, started off as a club DJ in Mbare, before joining the reggae group Transit Crew.

Culture T ditched the crew in 1991 as they headed off to Japan to honour a six-month contract in a Tokyo nightclub, instead leaving the country for the UK where he became a Rastafarian.

Few years later, the “Satani Wabvepi” hitmaker later became a committed Christian and released his gospel debut “Exceedingly Abundantly.”

Culture T did not exactly have a prolific career but he remains unmatched as an exponent of gospel reggae, who effectively packaged the gospel message for the sizeable segment who like the genre.

There have been arguments as to whether predominantly secular genres compromise the purity of gospel music.

I think genres are relative to culture and it is wrong to embrace only the laid-back American and European types of praise and worship as the only bona-fide forms of devotion.

In other words, it is not so much the medium but the message which matters, with regard to gospel purity.

In Ghana, Kofi Thompson was an internationally renowned exponent of what has been somewhat homogeneously categorised as the African beat

When he switched to gospel, after failing to find contentment and coming to the concession that he was a “God-shaped vacuum” as he said in an African Beat interview, his music actually became more popular.

Kofi has since assembled a successful Christian band, the Crown of Glory, with whom he has toured several countries and recorded big hits including “Most High God,” “I Feel Like Jumping” and “Mercy and Truth” to international repute.

A distinctive African style juxtaposed with consistently biblical message underlies his reinvented brand.

It would be foolhardy, of course, to claim that all music which that alludes to God in popular genres can be classified as gospel.

Some dancehall chanters and urban groove artists have claimed to be spreading the gospel but their so-called positive gospel tracks border on profanity and coarse jest instead of a wholesome Bible message.

One of Zimbabwe’s pioneer gospel Jordan Chataika’s backing sisters, Edna, has expressed dismay over the direction commercialised gospel has taken by co-opting just about every secular influence.

There is, of course, no justification, for fusing sexually suggestive dances and skimpy outfits into gospel music, contrary to the Christian teachings on temperance and purity.

Source : The Herald