Bongani Ndlovu, Showbiz Correspondent
LAST week gospel musician Lebo Sekgobela rolled into the City of Kings to headline the My Zimbabwe Gospel concert at the Large City Hall and what a show it was!
The show that was organised to raise awareness about voter registration as free entry to the event was guaranteed if one had a slip and their national ID.
Whether one came in for free or paid their mandatory $5 and was left with the prerogative to register to vote, the entertainment value at the gospel concert was worth the while.
And it was not only from the headliner, Lebo, it was the whole concert from start to finish.
Names such as Women of Valour, Mai Mwamuka, Lorraine Stot, Vocal Ex, Dunamis Men, Gospel Unplugged and Conquerors might not be recognisable to many nationwide, but these people know what they are doing.
These are the musical gems in the local gospel music scene that are stars in their own right although not yet in the mainstream. They are popular in their churches and last week’s gospel concert showed why.
If one is used to getting to a show just in time for the headline act to take to the stage, they would have been robbed as the so-called supporting acts outdid themselves and kept the crowd on its feet.
In fact gospel musicians in the city are not given the due respect that they deserve, as they take their craft seriously delivering the very best act to the crowd that is in front of them.
Church day after church day, they have sharpened their skills on stage, their voices sing melodiously in sync with the band and never put a foot wrong.
The Outfit Band which is ironically comprised of people with a strong church background handled the musical instruments expertly.
Whether the song is a high octane dance one, those on stage will dance and those in the audience will take the cue to follow suit and the whole place will be reverberating with joy. Or when it’s a song that worships the Maker, it’s the same, what happens on stage is transmitted to the crowd and they, with closed eyes and raised hands, sing along the hymns.
This is what they do every week at church they lead praise and worship sessions and when they are on stage at a concert it comes as a second intuition to switch on and deliver.
What the gospel musicians have under their belt is crowd engagement and this was evident during the gospel concert last week.
Each group that was given the chance as an opening act, from the beginning of the show did not put a foot or rather a note wrong when they sang.
It seems the groups have a certain pride or reputation to keep not embarrassing themselves on stage. They won’t be representing a group but the denomination that released them to perform there.
So making mistakes is out of the question. This is a lesson to many secular musicians who sometimes perform drunk in front of fans. They should take their art seriously and engage the audience. It should be an experience when they see you on stage. Touch the soul of an individual you’ll get their loyalty and that’s why gospel musicians have a knack to do.
And for them it was simple, most people in Zimbabwe are Christians from one denomination or another and it is easy to come across a hymn that you will like or are familiar with.
So when Lebo came on stage, the cake was already ready for the hundreds to eat and all she did was put the icing on it. Most of the work had been done by the various groups from Bulawayo who held it down for the city.
Takesure Zamar was an added seasoning to the already wonderful atmosphere that had already surrounded the auditorium and it was good seeing him perform with Lebo. Lorraine Stot who is known so much in gospel circles also shared the stage with her.
Any reputable singer from around the world began his or her music as a gospel musician. Talk of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, R Kelly, Whitney Houston, Marvin Gaye, the list is endless showing how many gems from around the world once sang at church before they became legends they are in their genres.
One of Jah Prayzah’s backing vocalists Thobekile Nare known as Excavator was once a gospel musician but dumped the genre and has become a vital cog in his Third Generation Band.
So it comes as no surprise that last Saturday there was immense talent on stage that blessed the hundreds at the auditorium.
The only difference between them and Lebo was that the Lion of Judah hit singer has had so much airplay in her home country that has stretched into Zimbabwe and ours do not.
Gospel music is a thriving genre in Zimbabwe and it will live on as long as there are churches churning out groups and individuals every Sunday or Saturday.