Unpacking Gwanda Gospel Festival

The Herald

Lifestyle Writer
The Gwanda International Gospel Music Festival rolled into Zimbabwe and as part of the exclusive media elite to the prestigious event, Saturday Herald Lifestyle took pride of place amongst the media delegates to experience the show. And the take home was astounding!

The People

If you sit next to the radio and listen to Takesure Zamar, you may be left underwhelmed as he sounds pretty orthodox and probably like a musician with an altogether heavy serious attitude in his lyricism.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Asked to come to Gwanda for the festival for a second bite of the cherry after having performed there before, there is little question why he was asked to come back. He is a supernova.

Zamar is unlike the old stereotype of the gospel artiste in Zimbabwe. You know, the odd guy trying to make it who sings traditional church hymns with floral shirts, shiny buttons and lips which if they open are highly likely to emit bad breath.

Gospel musicians have sadly been unspectacular in the past. Zamar oozes the magic of  a down to earth yet cosmopolitan artiste which is little wonder why he has stolen the hearts of many people who love gospel music and even those whose spirits just need a little bit of massaging here and there in a tough world.

Deborah Fraser

Yet ultimately it is perhaps because of that secret weapon that he possesses — that deep baritone voice which shook the foundations of Phelandaba Stadium once Zamar was possessed by the spirit of his God and erupted into song. And after all Zamar is a local kid, Gwanda born and raised. Wakhula wakokob’eGwanda. It is home!

A voice so powerful that; if used for harm, could cause destruction of nuclear proportions that would leave only the cockroaches alive and the waters covering the sea . . . much like In the beginning!

Enter Deborah Fraser, another of the ‘‘people’’. A warm-hearted person with a magnetic character and warmth of spirit.

Invited personally by the head of the hosts, Big Time Strategic Group, her message of hope, revival, prayerfulness and kindness is one that eternally resonates in the walls of the stadium even aeons after she will have left. A sure divinity etched onto the very walls of the venue!

Thinah Zungu, the thug, the gangster-to-angel. The Saul-to-Paul, showed that the genre of gospel music has a bright future way after the likes of mam’ Fraser hang their microphones.

Mathias Mhere and his infusion of a tinge of sungura, which is supremely danceable, made sure the entertainment component was not lost.

And was this Gwanda? Mhere tore down the walls of language barrier as the locals sang along to his songs effortlessly.

Takesure Zamar

The Moves

A free concert that has logistics so wide and varied means the world-class stage has to be sought from South Africa. That is the madness that makes the dream by Big Time Strategic Group’s boss, Justice Peace Maphosa a colossal miracle. How it becomes flawless is in itself another marvel of modern day planning.

A trans-border team of Alson Dakarayi and Mthokozisi “Ndlovu” Dube ensures a calming of some of the madness.

And sadly for Jesus, had the holy family been at the Gwanda International Gospel Music Festival they would have suffered serious déjà vu no less.

It would have been Bethlehem madness once again because when the GIGMF rolls into town there is no room at the inn. Literally.

All hotels, lodges, booking houses are packed to the rafters and Gwanda awakens to the religious capital of Zimbabwe, if only for a weekend.

One would even be tempted, and forgiven, to think the barns and stables and all the mangers are taken as well.

The Music

Certainly the music, the main ingredient, was served with God-given precision. When angels take their annual leave days, they probably battle to ensure they take them to coincide with music festival. Who wants to miss this?

A festival of praise and worship like this nourishes the soul. It washes the spirit in the praise and worship.

It slays the devil, his uncles and aunts, with the praise and worship. In the end when all was said and done, here was a festival that lived up to its billing.

The Lonely Tree

Who would want to miss this event? Well, sadly one man did. The founder of the festival, Gwanda bred businessman Justice Maphosa missed it for the first time due to personal reasons of a security nature. How he would have loved to be there.

He is known, at the peak of being in the spirit, for going to a particular tree in the enclosure where he starts to pray.

That tree, which prays with him, was lonely this year in his absence. Perhaps it said a prayer for him? Perhaps it wept.

Yet at the end of it all, the fact is in spite of the tree’s loneliness, everybody else left with a smile on their faces and healed souls.

And the fireworks, that shook the earth and brightened the skies in great magnanimity, sealed what was an epic experience!