MULTI AWARD-winning local gospel music sensation Reverend Togarepi Chivaviro, whose phenomenal rise has been through the hit song Ebenezer, which led to numerous local and international accolades, testifies he was catapulted to fame by a dream he had in 2014 — and the Lord helped him all the way, through “Ebenezer”.
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Before the floodgates of success were opened, the South Africa-based local artist had released a series of hymns and worship tracks in albums that were reportedly popular mainly within the local Methodist Church community.
“The song Ebenezer was received in a dream and the way it has impacted is the same as visualised in that dream. Yes, we had to develop some lyrics but based on the chorus as given in that dream in October 2014,” he said.
The thrust of the message was on remembering that whatever we have achieved came from God, who has taken us thus far, Chivaviro said while explaining the theme of the song.
The word “Ebenezer” is derived from the Hebrew language and means “stone of help” — from the stone which Samuel set up in commemoration of God’s help to the Israelites in their decisive victory over the Philistines at Mizpah.
According to 1 Samuel 7 in the Bible, several cities the Philistines had captured were restored to Israel. To commemorate the divine victory, “Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’” (verse 12).
The song is a collaborative project with top gospel artists Pastor Charles Charamba, Pastor Haisa, Noel Zembe, Baba Mechanic Manyeruke and Kudzai Nyakudya.
“I have recorded 13 studio albums since 1999 and by God’s grace, hope to increase them as God gives me life, though the next one might come after two years or so. I have studies to pursue soon, that’s why instead of the usual eight songs on the album Maranatha I did 13.
Maranatha, an Aramaic word that means “the Lord is coming” or “come, O Lord” is the title of the latest collaborative effort by Chivaviro, which was launched at Germiston Prayer Centre in South Africa at the beginning of the month and has gone viral on social media.
“Maranatha reminds us to keep our eyes on the eternal things of the Spirit and encourages people to hang on during times of crisis while pleading with Jesus to come and rescue believers in trouble,” he said.
The album features 13 artists, including Mathias Mhere, Psalmist Josh Kays, Leonard Zhakata, Agatha Murudzwa, Munyaradzi Munodawafa, Olinda Marova and Juliet Chivaviro, underlining Chivaviro’s status as the master of collaborations.
South Africans Buhle Nhlangulela, Putuma Tiso and Muzieb feature as backing vocals.
“I now have two standing bands in Zimbabwe and South Africa and this has helped us in doing live shows , singing and church conferences and social events like weddings,” he said.
“The secret , if there is any, is hard work and above all, God’s grace. Without grace, even if you toil so hard, you will never achieve a lot; you need God’s favour on top of hard work and the sky is the limit.
“I also network a lot, and some of those awards, especially the African ones, have come out of networking to know what’s going on around us.”
“The theme that I try to drive throughout the songs is that God is at the centre and focus of all. It’s all about God.”
Most of his backing vocals, when recording, are done by Mother General, Rumbi Zvirikuzhe, Dorcas Zvirikuzhe and Rumbi Mparutsa.
Of late, South Africans Buhle, Tiso and Muzieb have been roped in for the productions.
Chivaviro has maintained the same producer, Blessing Masanga since 2005 and manager Allen Dzobo since he started recording in 1999.
He believes this has given him growth and consistency and above all, the prayers from his fans keep him going.
He stressed that his first call was leading the five-year-old ministry, Assemblies of Pentecostal Methodists which now has 26 assemblies in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana.
“I dedicate most of my time to the ministry and my family. For me, music is more of a passion, I’m not a professional musician like others. In fact, I only started having a band both in South Africa and Zimbabwe just recently due to large booking volumes for events,” he said.
With his wife as one of his backing vocalists since 2001, Chivaviro said he is blessed that the couple had developed an understanding of the demands of the trade.
“She has recently also recorded her own single, Pindai Jesu with Mai Mtukudzi and Mai Manyeruke,” he said.
“My kids also appreciate, I’m not forcing them, though the boy Tinashe (12) has turned himself into the main drummer at church, to my surprise. My daughter Munashe (10) loves composing her own contemporary songs.With this background, therefore, they are 100% behind me.”
He said his biggest testimony was how he overcame his impoverished background from rural Gokwe where he would go to school barefooted to become who he is now.
“Look at where I am now, where I live, what I eat, what I drive and the family I have. You would never have thought such a transformation would be normal. I’m a miracle!” he said.
“My most memorable moments were in May 1999 when I went to the studio to record my first album, with the late Tendai Mupfurutsa’s High Density Studios. Then, fast-forward to May 2016 when I shared the stage with Africa’s best in Pretoria on top of lifting the Best Collaboration in Africa for the song Ebenezer.”
Chivaviro said he was inspired by the late Brian Sibalo and South Africa’s Sipho Makhabane. He takes time to listen to all gospel musicians in Zimbabwe.
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