Sydney Kawadza Senior Writer
For 20 years the Harare West MUMC choir has been spreading the gospel through song, virtually becoming one of the highly-talented choral groups to come out of Zimbabwe.
The “grand-dads” of choral music have been churning out album-after-album especially from the United Methodist Church hymn book.
“We are still spreading the gospel through music concentrating on church services, private functions and even national events,” Harare West MUMC vice chairman Zechius Kandemiri said in an interview recently.
The Harare West Mubvuwi weUnited Methodist Church Choir was mooted in 1994 before the group was officially registered with an original cast of 25 members and has since grown from strength to strength.
Kandemiri was accompanied by secretary Rerutsai Mujeka, choir director Obert Chipfunde and advisor Thomas Muchabvunga during the interview.
He declared that Zimbabwe had not seen enough of the grand choral group.
“The idea to found Harare West MUMC choir was inspired by the main principle of vabvuwi, which is to be fishers of men as is stated in the books of Mathew, Luke and Mark when Jesus picked his disciples. So we decided to form a group that would be fishers of men through the gospel while pushing the ideology of vabvuwi and spread the word in Harare West but it went beyond our expectations after the success of the first album in 1995,”Muchabvunga said.
In 1994, the all-male choral group elected an executive that would lead their operations and it was led by Silas Mujuru (project chairman), Mudiwa, treasurer Snoden Musandu (now late) and others.
“After the success of the first album in 1995, we recorded our second album “Murapi Aripano”, which also did well and raising our status in the gospel music circles,” Kandemiri said.
The group has tried to produce at least an album or two each year from the days of their formation.
“As much as we would want to produce an album annually, we take advice from our producers who believe there is no need to go to the studio when our previous production is faring quite well on the market,” Mujeka said.
He, however, said while their last studio album “Tsitsi Dzinondishamisa” was still hot on the market, the group had to record another album “Ebenezer”, which was specifically for the United Methodist Church Conference held in Harare last year. The group’s membership has since grown to 32 while 10 original members have died in the past 11 years.
Other members of the original cast have retired and moved to their rural homes but the group has remained intact. The Harare West MUMC inspired a lot of choral groups from different denominations that later fizzled out after premature domination of the charts.
“Yes we have seen many groups emerge and die while some have joined us after the demise of their groups but our strength as Harare West MUMC are the prayers and discipline that unite us,” Chifunde chipped in.
Kandemiri said most of the original members have taken the back seat while young members lead their performances. “We identify new members from within our church especially those whose talents are noticed during our services before we invite them for auditions. “Once a member joins there is an abundance of love shared and nothing can separate us as a group. We have members who retired or died but we have found able replacements that bring the energy,” he said.
Mujeka added: “The original members have given the young ones a chance to shine while showcasing our skills and we have grabbed that opportunity with both hands.”
Chipfunde said while all groups experience challenges, the Harare West MUMC choir has been blessed with advisors who are willing to work on any wayward behaviour.
“We uphold discipline as Christians and it is prudent for every member to accept good advice,” he said.
While the group was formed for spreading the word and profit making is not an objective, members believe donations or gifts would be a blessing for the outfit.
“We have grown as a unit and would be happy to perform at any event even national events and the corporate world can engage us for their functions,” Mujeka said.
The group recently bought a minibus for travelling purposes with the assistance of several benefactors.
Muchabvunga’s last word was to assure the nation of their continued presents on the gospel music scene.
“Our future is bright as a group because the youngsters taking over the lead will continue pushing our agenda,” he said.
The Harare West MUMC, which has also received blessings from the United Methodist Church leadership, especially the late Bishop Jokomo to use the church hymns for recording, has produced 17 albums and four DVDs.