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Music review: Pastor Haisa resurfaces

I recently bumped into gospel singer, Pastor Lawrence Haisa, at the University of Zimbabwe campus and we had a brief conversation. When I asked him why he had been quiet on the music scene lately, he immediately reached his right-hand pocket and took out his latest album which he gave to me with: “Is this being quiet?”

in the groove by Fred Zindi

Pastor Haisa

I was dumbfounded and went straight to my car to give it a listen.

Indeed the gospel star returns with an immensely likeable crossover album that pulses with positivity. Below is a review of the album which he titled MaChurch:

There are some people you just root for. I fell in love with the first track Ma Church, where the pastor sings Kuwanda Kwemachechi Hakuna Kuipa even though I did not quite understand the politics or implications behind the song. Is it about Zaoga? Or is it about Mai Chaza, Guta RaJehovah or Mapositori? I know that this pastor has had issues with churches in the past. Despite this, I just loved this track. The pastor trades on an eminent likeability that has drawn the likes of many church congregants to his optimistic aura. Ever since his release of previous albums which include Ndinobvuma, Burukai Mwari, Ndichamunamata and Handirambe, he has been touted as Brian Sibalo’s natural successor in gospel circles, a star with the charisma and pop chops to make gospel music a viable commercial force.

The second track, Mabvi Ose, is a well-arranged ditty which would command even those non-believers to go down on bended knees and start to pray. It is set in a traditional style, the one which even Chimurenga guru Thomas Mapfumo would appreciate and perhaps also begin to pray. Mabvi Ose slowly flows into Abba Father, which is a towering demonstration of the pastor’s melodic intelligence. Here, Pastor Haisa gives us something irregular which is also laced with beautiful harmonies.

In situations where academic group projects often go awry due to clashing egos or due to someone doing too much of the heavy lifting, Abba Father invites us to enjoy the same noteworthy ethereal beats and off-kilter sounds fans have come to know and love from YouTube, but with the experience enlivened by a man who has returned from his personal voyages and has something extra to say.

This leads us to the fourth track, Burukai Mwari. But, wait a minute! Haven’t I heard this track before? Yes, I gave it the title, Mutoro Unorema. This, although definitely a repeat of the same rhythm, lyrics and melody, is well-polished and is in musical parlance, a re-mix. It doesn’t make it a new song though. Has the pastor run out of compositions? Or does he just want to prove that he has not gone quiet? I would have loved to ask him this question, but it was too late. He was gone by the time I listened to the whole album. However, he goes into a new song, Jesu Ishe, on track number five which has a well-arranged sound and stands out as an example of his new approach to music. The album ends with an instrumental version of Burukai Mwari again. Ah! Come on Pastor, are you getting lazy? I was beginning to love this album. There are dozens of gospel songwriters about. Why don’t you contact them and give us more on the album instead of repeating the same one hit-song?

The second album with 11 tracks, titled Ndinyaradzeiwo, comes from Reverend Charles Chiweshe from the Baptist Church. In my opinion, after the disturbances that occurred on August 1, this is an appropriate album to console the grief of those souls who lost their loved ones.

After ambushing me at a supermarket in Harare, I thanked Reverend Chiweshe for presenting his CD to me.

As I listened to the music track by track, I was reminded of Ebenezer hitmaker Reverend Togarepi Chivaviro’s diplophonic vocal style with sustained tonality and other vocal techniques.

Track one, Ndinyaradzeiwo, not only asks for God’s comfort, but also showcases fine instrumentation and melodic harmonies from the backing vocalists Jairos Tamangani, Carol Mashamba, Priscilla Nzima and Brian Nzima.

The nine tracks which follow, Mumwe Ariko Anondida, Jesu Anondida, Jesu Ibwe, Ndibatei, Ndosangana, Hosana Wekudenga, Ndawana Shamwari, Ndichamira She and Ndinosimbiswa, are focused on the teachings of Jesus Christ and they can be useful in showing Christians the way to live by example and promote camaraderie among young people.

The last track, Uto-Soldier, reminds me of my youthful days when we all sang “Nkomo is our leader, we shall not be moved!” Here, Reverend Chiweshe has adapted this song and found Shona words to put to it and it comes out beautifully. It also showcases Reverend Chiweshe’s continuing strength as a vocalist and the supporting musicians’ progress towards truly realising their powers. Vocal duties are shared in this track and Size Productions, the organisation behind its output, draws from a wider sample base. I know that the people acknowledged on this album, who include Agrippa Sora, head at Prince Edward School, Dr Chikomo, Spiwe Munjoma and Franco aka BlaBee Chigama, were all instrumental in bringing joy to the world through Chiweshe’s efforts.

Two weeks ago, we gave free computer lessons to several musicians who appreciated the knowledge they gained. “Now I can upload my video on YouTube without hassle!” one of the participants was heard saying. “Now I know how to do music streaming and how to forward internet messages,” another was heard saying. It wasn’t until the end of the session that one participant, Linia Mhomwa Wutete from Music Crossroads, gave Benjamin Nyandoro (one of our resource persons) and I a copy of her latest CD.

It takes a confident group to pack a song chorus with a bunch of “La la la” chants in this discerning streaming age, but when Wutete and Prudence Katomeni-Mbofana combine on a track Mamonya Na Jesu, it feels like a band having a play around the park before asking you to join in. Melding Motown melodies and pop chords for heartbreak and house party listeners alike, this five-minute and five-second track is a triumph.

Wutete came again a week later to drop yet another single titled Rumbidza Mweya.

The song, like Fungisai’s Vanondibatirana, which was done in collaboration with Killer T, handles the business of melding the seemingly incompatible worlds of Zimdancehall and gospel with respect for the mechanics of both. The beats bang when they need to and Wutete’s voice sounds crisp and inspired. She is singing like her immortal soul depends on those vocal runs floating.

Wutete, who went to school at Makumbe in Buhera and Mhuriimwe in Highfield, is definitely unstoppable just like her first 2005 recording Unstoppable Preacher tells us. Later efforts include Result Praises and Worship (2010) and Handidi Nhamo (2015). With the latest Rumbidza Mweya, she demonstrates that she has grown from strength to strength.

Last but not least, is a reggae effort, Tell her You Love Her If She Is The Source Of your Joy by one ex-Transit Crew singer, Solomon Tok aka Rutsman Spice. He is now based in South Africa and this tune has been well-received in that country. A YouTube presentation of the video to this song, which showcases his backing band, ZionRuts Family, is now available. Rutsman Spice tells me that Tell Her You Love Her will soon fill the airways in Zimbabwe. It’s pure niceness!

Feedback: frezindi@gmail.com

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