BY GRANT MOYO
Reigning champion of The Voice UK, a British singing competition television series, Blessing Chitapa, affectionately known as Blessing Annatoria, has released her poignant first single titled I Smile taken from her forthcoming debut album Count My Blessings.
The 18-year-old United Kingdom-based Zimbabwe-born vocal powerhouse announced April 30 as the official date when her album will be dropped via Universal Music, making her the youngest ever winner in the show’s history to release an album.
Blessing Annatoria moved to the UK at the age of seven. Though she loved singing in church, she had plans to study biomedical sciences at university. It was while studying chemistry, biology and physics at Dudley College, that she made her biggest achievement yet, being crowned the ninth winner of The Voice.
Giving an insight about extending her name from just Blessing, which she was known as on the hit show, the gifted singer said she adopted the additional name, Annatoria, in honour of her late grandmother.
“Annatoria is my middle name and actually the name of my dad’s mum, my grandmother, who sadly passed away when my dad was young. I feel like the name represents me as an artiste and my different backgrounds, which is perfect for the new album,” she said.
The upbeat and bouncy track I Smile, an anthem to joyful resilience and optimism, showcases Blessing Annatoria’s soulful and show-stopping vocals.
She is joined on the track by a remotely recorded choir led by Kingdom Choir’s Wayne Hernandez, best known for performing at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding.
The latter performer, who is of Afro-Cuban heritage, has also worked with American rapper and record executive Jay Z, a Gorillaz, as well as English virtual band.
“The album’s first single I Smile, an empowering interpretation of the Kirk Franklin (American gospel musician) original, is out now. It features a remotely recorded choir led by Kingdom Choir’s Wayne Hernandez. My forthcoming debut album Count My Blessings will be released on April 30,” Blessing Annatoria said.
Fresh in everyone’s minds, having been crowned the winner of The Voice last year in November, after a seven-month break filming due to the pandemic, Blessing Annatoria has firmly embraced this experience to show her endurance. She recorded her debut album remotely during lockdown with award-winning British producer, arranger and songwriter Rupert Christie, who has worked with the likes of English singer-songwriter Jessie J, Irish rock band U2, British rock band Coldplay, British singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas, the late American musician Lou Reed, as well as Blackbook Music, a forward thinking music and media company.
The gospel-infused album, Count My Blessings, features a stunning selection of 14 songs, representing all facets of Blessing Annatoria as an artiste.
From re-imagined versions of her The Voice performances, songs that have inspired and uplifted her, to hymns which she has given a contemporary twist, the Zimbabwe-born singer is bringing different cultures together, spreading joy and happiness.
“During this time of hardship and struggle, I wanted to release an album of encouragement and joy. I want people to feel uplifted and I really hope the songs and hymns will give people strength to pick themselves up and be happy again,” she said.
The album’s emotive and soul-stirring title track Count My Blessings, which the singer-songwriter co-wrote, is a rich melodic message to encourage people to have faith, spread kindness and to help each other.
The Voice fans will be thrilled with the inclusion of a beautiful new version of her winning song Angels by English singer-songwriter Robbie Williams, a powerful and emotional rendition of Flying Without Wings by Irish boy band Westlife, as well as an electrifying re-imagine of American singer Mariah Carey’s Without You, the track which secured Blessing Annatoria’s place in the final.
Representing her childhood and faith, the album also features three hymns with a close connection to her.
As a young Zimbabwean, Blessing Annatoria grew up singing hymns in church and she has been surrounded by them all her life, which is why it was so important for her to include them on her debut album.
Particularly the striking hymn How Great Thou Art, which she describes as her family’s song. All of the hymns have been given a contemporary twist and are set to introduce a new audience to their uplifting powers.
Other tracks on the album include, Hold Back The River, Moving On, I Won’t Back Down, In Christ Alone, Who You Travel With, Abide With Me, Shackles, and You’ll Never Walk Alone.
Being English singer-songwriter Olly Murs’ second winning act on The Voice UK, Blessing Annatoria is set for a triumphant return to the show.
The songstress will perform her debut single I Smile live at the show’s finale on March 20.