Tuesday 20 September 2011
Death gave birth to Vabati VaJehova
They came together to sing and raise money to help families whose members died in a road accident but today, Vabati VaJehova have themselves been slowly decimated by death. The group is still on but the old seasoned voices are gone - Wonder Guchu
I ran into Vabati VaJehova in the Avenues area. They had an office where they sorted out their cassettes for sale at flea markets across the country.
It was just before murambatsvina and business at flea market was very brisk. There were all there – the Magaya brothers Wiseman, Timonthy, Mamelodi, Kumbulani and Samson Tawengwa.
It was a small office but Wiseman said then that it was all they could afford.
Yes, he told me, music was a tough business and artists had to take it up upon themselves to make sure they make a life.
Wiseman said because record companies were not doing enough for musicians, they had taken it upon themselves to market their CDs.
When I walked out of their office after the interview, little did I know that two years later, Wiseman would be dead – he suffered a short illness. Little did I also know that his young brother Timothy would also be hit by a lorry along the Harare-Masvingo road at Rosalum Store in 2009.
And talking to them, I never sensed that one of them Tawengwa would walk out on the group in May 2009. This was not the first time Tawengwa had walked out on the group.
Today the group is led by Mamelodi, his brother Richard and new members among them their cousin Denzel Tapera and a friend Tonderai Chakwena.
This group will down in history as one that inspired the formation of various other groups such as Apostolic Melodies, Apostolic Holy Vibes, Ruwadzano Apostolic Church, Vabati VeVhangeri and Vachemeri vaJehovah.
Read their story below:
Growing up in the dusty rural area of Mhondoro, about 40 km from Harare, the five boys who sang in the church choir had no idea that they would later live on their voices calling themselves Vabati VaJehova.
Of the five boys, four are from the Magaya Family. These are Wiseman, Mamelodi, Timothy and Kumbulani as well as Samson Tawengwa, whose families belonged to the Ruwadzano Romuchinjikwa Apostolic sect, were part of the church choir that would entertain elders during worship sessions.
People, who heard them singing, encouraged the five to record their music but because there was no one willing to put in money, nothing happened.
When they finished school, each one of them found employment in different towns in the country and for a brief period, their voices were quietened.
Because they felt that they should record, one by one, the boys who had grown into men started leaving their jobs and tracked to Harare.
First to leave was Kumbulani. He worked in a small town of Norton (about 38 km from Harare). And then Mamelodi too left his supervisory job.
“We did not think anything about leaving our jobs. Somehow, we felt that God would help. And so here we are today,” said Wiseman.
Once again, they tried to source for sponsorship but nobody came forward.
“Not even our brothers were willing to help. They all said that the type of music we wanted to record would not sale,” put in Mamelodi.
Their lucky break was to come after a road accident that claimed 26 lives on the spot. Touched by the plight of the children and families left by the deceased, the group without a name then, found a new cause. They thought to sing and provide food, school fees and clothes for the orphaned children.
“We had no close connection with the people who died in the accident. They belonged to another apostolic sect, Vimbiso YaJehova, but still death affects everybody,” said Wiseman.
And again, no sponsor was forthcoming at least for some time until Duncan Zunzayi Jaramba, a young brother to the Bishop of the Vimbiso YaJehova sect heard about the group’s music.
“We were going to a funeral when Jaramba approached Samson and told him that he had heard their music and was interested in helping them to record,” said Mamelodi.
The group, now calling themselves Vabati VaJehova, was more than happy to have found help. Jaramba paid the recording fees with High Density Records that belonged to another popular musician, Tendai Mupfurutsa.
And the album, Mweya Mutsvene WaMwari was recorded in 1999. The album did not receive much support from the people but its sales picked much later after the production of three videos on songs featured on the album.
“From the proceeds of the album, we managed to pay school fees, food and clothes for the orphans as per our promise,” said Samson.
Because they had succeeded in their set goal, they wanted to stop singing but people encouraged them to go no.
Then in 2001, they had their second album, Wauya Mucheki that won them a local award.
It was the album that made them popular and with it came problems.
“We wanted to be involved in charity work. For example, we did not want to charge anything when we perform at funerals or weddings. Even when we were invited to perform in another church, we should not charge anything. And this did not go down well with our promoter, Jaramba. So whenever we were called anywhere, he would demand payment,” Wiseman explained.
When another bus accident that killed more than 30 teachers occurred along the Harare – Johannesburg road, the group asked Jaramba to be allowed to go but he refused.
“We even wanted to help but Jaramba refused,” added Samson.
However, the group had to go without his concent and when he got to hear about it, he sacked Wiseman and Kumbulani from the group.
In fact, the sacking was the climax of the group’s problems with their promoter whom the group accused of not remitting funds to the orphans some of whom were being expelled from school and living miserable lives.
“We found out that nothing was being given the orphans and that the lifestyle of our promoter had greatly changed. We could not get all what we wanted. For example when problems arose, we had to borrow money.
We lived like paupers,” complained Kumbulani.
After sacking Wiseman and Kumbulani from the group, Jaramba put together another outfit which he called Vabati VaJehova. The problem with that group was that it could not sing some of the songs done but the original Vabati VaJehova. And it soon ran into problems with the people.
“In order to bring a semblance of originality to the group, Jaramba asked Samson to lead the group,” said Wiseman.
But later, Samson realized that he was being used and he returned to original group.
Behind Jaramba’s back, the group recorded in honour of the bus disaster that killed 38 teachers an album, which they called Mweya Mutsvene WaMwari in 2002. And in that same year, they also released Ndinobva Kwamuri, their fourth album. Zuva Rokupera was their
fifth album and it was released in 2003 while the current hot album is Chiriko Chikomo.
“Although Samson remained briefly with Jaramba, he participated in all the albums we have released so far,” said Wiseman.
So when Samson returned to the original Vabati VaJehova, those who remained called themselves Vabati VeVhangeri.
“With Chiriko Chikomo,” Wiseman said, “we have reached our peak. It has so far sold more than any other album in the same period at the market.”
And does this explain their sudden change of dress code? They now go for trendy designer jeans, tee shirts and tackies.
“Fashion has age,” laughed Mamelodi. “We have to change because our music appeals to all ages.”
“These clothes are not meant for showing off,” put in Wiseman. “We are people too and so we move with time.
“After all God likes people to be clean.”