LOCAL gospel choir Vocal Ex’s Brian Bangura vocally speaking, is cut from the same cloth as some of Motown’s soul music legends.
He does it all: Hollers, emotes and scats with the best singers such as the Famous Temptations or the O’Jays.
A more recent comparison would be nineties group Jodeci.
Recently at a locally-held concert featuring Harare’s Sunshine City Choir and Stanley Gwanzura aka Pastor G, among others Vocal Ex had a standout moment with the young vocalist who Eric Moyo kept referring to as pastor Brian. Audiences were rapt at his technique which was all done presumably in the name of Jesus.
The Happy People concert
Yes, it was one of those moments when one feels that more could have been done to bring out the crowds.
Maybe Sunshine City Choir should never have been so ambitious for a new group to attempt to stage a concert in such a large venue.
Maybe Vocal Ex, being the more locally familiar group, should have hosted them and gone all out to promote the show to their local fans. But there was Sunshine City Choir singing their hearts off. It ceased to matter in the end that so and so wasn’t in the Word of Life auditorium as the singers came on and made their joyful noise.
The best soprano in Zimbabwe
“And now let me introduce probably one of the best sopranos in Zimbabwe,” chortled brother Pardon Mutsago the Sunshine City Choir’s director. So we waited with baited breath. She came on with the swagger of a woman who knows that she is physically gifted.
Petronella Sengwayo, a third generation Sengwayo (remember late singer Freedom Sengwayo?) Yes, she is from that family and yes, she hit the high notes. Still, it was like Shakespeare calls it: Full of sound and fury signifying nothing. I mean the noise was beautiful, but I just couldn’t hear the words. Again, singers must learn to do what I call the Whitney or better still the Cece Winans.
This is when you must sing in such a way that folk can actually hear your words. This is so critical when you sing gospel music.
Indeed, a good sound engineer will set you back monetarily, but he or she can only add that special sheen to your audio output.
I must say that either the singers sings too loud or the engineer on the mixing decks was “too novice!” My boy kept holding his ears to protect his ear drums.
Later, the choir rendered a standout moment in which a woman decked out in a Zion church dress sang so movingly that some in the audiences raised their hands in seeming worship.
X-Mile, backed by percussionist Butshilo Nleya and others came on. He did Jonathan Butler’s Falling In love with Jesus asking the crowd to help him out. I was thinking: boy just do your thing and stop tripping.
Then he got to do a Shona vernacular song whose intro is an Ishmael Lo rip off.
I was shocked to say the least because he can get into trouble for that sort of copyright infringement. Afterward he did his own hit Bangaxabani.
I wondered though, whether that song belonged on that platform. In my mind, though gifted and very able, X-Mile did not belong on that platform. It was diversionary to me to hear the groupie like screams of some teenage girls at a gospel show. The lines get blurred.
Pastor G is a gospel music pioneer. His stage moniker is clever play on the gangster or street persona of a hip-hop artiste.
Certainly, Pastor G has affected a street wise persona throughout his gospel music career harking back to his dalliances with Delani Makhalima and his sidekick prime minister.
One of his trilogy of concept albums is entitled Diary of a Street Preacher just to prove the point.That album spawned hits such as Count Your Blessings and Walk Alone all helping to cement the man’s profile as one of urban music’s true originals. His latest offering is entitled Indestructible and it features the song Munogona’ (You Are Able).
This is my favourite because the hook is dope and the choir backing truly uplifting. On the night of the concert Pastor G was backed by Sunshine City Choir and he rocked the stage with his song.
His singing had a particular rasp and exultation in it that got some audiences members to stand and sway to its mid tempo groove.
Notice that the singer did not have to get the audience to do anything. The crowd’s reaction was reflexive. That’s how it should be for performers.
When your act delivers and is visceral enough, you will get the desired reaction all right, and artists dream of having audiences sing along to their song! In the end, me and my colleague Nonhlanhla were wondering just what our local artistes could do to get the audiences out in numbers. We are still wondering.
Tswa the poet set for June 16 commemorations
One of Bulawayo’s foremost artistes, poet/video producer/music producer Tswarelo Mothobi is set to be part of a June 16, commemoration in South Africa to be staged at Constitution Hill. The poetic do is part of that country’s memorial of June 16 a turning point date in their anti-apartheid struggle.
Tswa is a formidable wordsmith who garners much respect within the region and has graced many local platforms such as Shoko Festival and Hifa.
His poetry has taken him to places such as Kenya and South Africa.
Of late he has been part of a team of artistes instrumental in helping put all female ensemble Nobuntu on the music map alongside Dumisani Ramadu of Autsria-based Insingizi. We wish him every success.
Parting Shot: Death of a legend
It would be a travesty to not mention the silencing of one black history’s most inspirational voices in Maya Angelou.
An author of famous book I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ and poem Phenomenal Woman which was a paean to womanhood, Maya Angelou was a powerful speaker, journalist, writer, and college professor who moved millions with her autobiographical tales of life in
America’s deep South that mixed sexual abuse and racism amongst other themes.
She died last week at the age of 96! Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama claimed her as mentor and inspiration for their own lives and careers.
Readers may care to know that though today Oprah is a billionaire talkshow host and network owner, she is professionally a broadcast journalist and Michelle is an A-list lawyer by profession apart from being the First Lady of the US.
Hopefully we will see Maya Angelou in the resurrection!