AFTER starving their fans for some time without anything new to listen and dance to, the gospel music super couple, Pastor Charles and Olivia Charamba (pictured) will on Wednesday launch their separate albums at the Zimbabwe College of Music in Harare.
the style interview by Winstone Antonio
While the couple, backed by Fishers of Men, is celebrating the release of their latest projects, Abba Father, a nine-track album from Pastor Charamba and Voice of Miriam, an eight-track album from Mai Charamba, the husband recalls how it was not that rosy during the early days as he had to endure a lot of challenges to be the musician he is today.
Just like any other profession where there are challenges, Charamba reminisced how his preferred recording company Gramma Record’s had reservations about letting him record was one of the main challenges he experienced in his musical journey.
While some gospel musicians’ careers have been cut short by scandals, the Machira Chete hitmaker said he was not a gospel musician because of skill and talent only, but he was called and commissioned. As such, he always wants to check on the spiritual compass provided by the one who called him and that is what gives him strength.
The Standard Style reporter Winstone Antonio (WA) caught up with Charamba (CC) who shared experiences ahead of the launch of their latest albums with his wife. Below are excerpts from the interview.
WA: You have been in the music industry for over a decade, what is the philosophy that guides you?
CC: Principally, it is all by God’s grace. In my part, I always want to remember what God told me to do and how to do it. I am not a gospel musician because of skill and talent only; I was called and commissioned, so I always want to check on the spiritual compass provided by the one who called me. Knowing who I am shapes my activities and aspirations. I am prepared to either gain or lose certain things for the sake of my calling.
WA: You will be releasing a new album on Wednesday alongside your wife. Can you give us some insight into the forthcoming album?
CC: As an apologetic gesture to our followers who missed us on the musical radar for a long time, we decided to make a dual release. We are releasing the two separate albums titled Abba Father [mine] and Voice of Miriam [Mai Charamba’s]. After the pre-launch, we will have a grand concert at Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex on September 30. Copies of the CDs shall be available at newspaper vending sites. Those abroad will get the music on online platforms.
WA: What inspired the titles of the albums?
CC: The album Abba Father is inspired by Roman 8:15. This is simply one word Father spoken in the Aramaic or Chaldean language repeated in Greek, originally. It’s Aba Baba in our own Shona translation. It speaks of a son-father bond. Voice of Miriam is derived from the celebratory attitude adopted by Moses’s sister after realising that God had fought mightily Exodus 15:21.
WA: Will you be doing videos from the albums?
CC: Yes, we will be doing videos for the albums. We have been doing a number of videos since last year; they are on their way soon.
WA: There is a lot of collaborations happening these days between gospel and secular musicians. Do you see yourself collaborating with any secular artistes in future?
CC: I take music for music. As long as I agree with the scope of the message as well as being compatible with the melodic flow, I can. I was raised by the so- called secular musicians and I personally don’t discriminate against anyone on the basis of their genres. I don’t like to take part in any song that leads people away from the values taught by Jesus and biblical writers, so the song should be the one that joins us together.
WA: While you have grown to become one of the respected gospel musicians in the country, there might be some challenges you faced to be the musician you are today. How did you overcome them?
CC: God has a way of training His own. He can let you face starvation but the moment you are ready to succumb to hunger, a platefull of food appears instantly. I have noticed that God is prepared to take over all challenges, especially if they have something to do with the advancement of His Kingdom. One of the biggest challenges I incurred was the reservations by my preferred recording company, then Gramma Records to let me record. I had very limited ways of convincing them to try my music due to my humble background and inexperience. God made a way, I managed.
WA: What was the most remarkable day in your music journey?
CC: I have many. February 26 1995 is one of them, I recorded my first single with Peter Muparutsa who was the sound engineer. The late Josphar Mangwiro and Simbarashe Mujeyi played bass and lead guitar respectively, while Isaac Musekiwa played the keyboards. The songs were Jehovah NdiMwari Wedu and Mweya Wangu Une Mupinisi. Mukoma Peter looked at me after laying my vocals and said, “Now I understand why you were insisting on getting studio time.”
WA: How best can you describe the state of gospel music in Zimbabwe from the time you ventured into the industry?
CC: We are progressing. However, I feel composers would do better if the financial situation eases. Many are discouraged because they cannot recover the monies they spend on music production. It is a pity, we have almost legalised piracy. Like Esau who sold his birthright due to hunger, some of our gifted sisters are tempted to adopt unorthodox means of survival in the industry. We need to analyse their environment before blaming them. I implore the powers that be to redress the plight of musicians. I am concerned about the girl child since she is the dominating gender in gospel. I am happy that the numbers are growing but we also have to improve on the quality of both compositions and sound.
WA: You have performed outside the country several times, can you share your experiences there with us?
CC: They are just too many. The Americas tend to value music from abroad so locals come in their numbers, but in the United Kingdom, concerts are dominated by fellow Zimbabweans and a few from other African countries. Yes, they come in numbers, but locals are rarely keen to attend. Australia has a good balance. As Fishers of Men, we have a tremendous acceptance in Mozambique and we enjoy touring that country so much. We cannot, however, take anything away from Botswana and South Africa.
WA: What is your advice to upcoming musicians looking up to you?
CC: I say grow up and explore further. The Holy Spirit should be the one to set our benchmark. I may have done well to be your inspiration but you have the potential to be an inspiration to multitudes as well. There are still many songs hanging around, get spiritual, download and sing them. It’s not about good voices only, the Holy Spirit should bear witness in your song.
WA: Your closing remarks?
CC: We are back from our long break, we are no longer going to take long before releasing. You need both our albums because they are totally different in character yet very inspirational. God is definitely going to speak to people’s lives through these albums. We did not record them alone, we always felt His presence right from the composing stage.
May the Lord keep us under His gracious love.