Harmony Singers host Gonzaga Chamber Singers (USA)

Harmony Singers host Gonzaga Chamber Singers (USA)

Its not everyday when the earthy and heavy african vocals meet with the well formed premier sounds of a chamber choir from the United States of America to produce a show, such as never been seen before in the country. If you are a music lover, the Unclouded: Music for hope Zim/USA is moving evidence of an existence of great  choral movement within the country that deserves due recognition and must have every Zimbabwean proud and excited. I wouldn’t miss it if I were you.

Zimbabweans are extremely lucky and they just haven’t realised it yet. On Friday the 3oth of May, this Chitungwiza based choir, straight from the dusty streets will collaborate in a show with the Gonzaga Chamber Singers in a music show that will not only be a chance to bring together two unique group of voices but celebrate a choral music movement in the country that has far too long been suppressed and played second fiddle to many other music forms that have been given precedence.

I am blessed to have witnessed, in my lifetime, a choir that has achieved as much as the Chitungwiza Harmony Singers and yet is still just an ordinary choral group with very little musical status such as that which is given any other artist like Oliver Mtukudzi. If anyone deserved such high recognition, this would have been my number 1 choice of choir.

Friday the 30th of May will once again mark a great day in the choirs history as they sing alongside this premier ‘choral ensemble consisting of 26-28 voices drawn from the Gonzaga University Choir whose choral literature focuses on chamber works that are unaccompanied or with chamber accompaniment. Some of their major performances include concerts and national and international tours such as spring 2010 where the Chamber Singers performed in Shanghai and Beijing on its China tour.’ (GU website)

gonzaga
The Gonzaga University Concert Choir. Members of the Chamber Chorus are traditionally drawn from the Concert Choir. GU photo by Edward Bell

Their African tour has seen them travel to Zambia and the finale tone marked for Zimbabwe with CHS at the National Art Gallery for what should be a great unmissable show. During their tour of these two neighbouring countries, Gonzaga has participated in musical exchanges and performances with high school and university choirs, sang at Masses and other public venues. Timothy Westerhaus (director and voice coach) developed the choir’s first intercultural exchange and engagement tour in 2015 in Bogotá and Cali, Colombia, one of the first U.S. collegiate choir tours in the region.’ (According to Gonzaga website).

CHS is a choir that has not only stood the test of time since its creation in 1993 by the late, award winning Israel Dzangare but has produced three albums, collaborated with various artists within the country and has achieved repetitive success within regional competitions traditionally held in South Africa and hosted by Old Mutual. In 2016, for the first time ever, they were solely responsible for bringing the Limpopo version of the competitions to Harare which is a result of hard work and growth from within the choir resulting in the formation of other choral groups.

chs
Chitungwiza Harmony in concert. Pic (CHS Facebook page)

Here is a snippet of the rehearsal just to wet your appetite and if this doesn’t move to be at the National Art Gallery in Harare at 6pm, then no other music will.

Where is Tocky and his Vibes?

Where is Tocky and his Vibes?

The last time I saw a Tocky Vibes show I almost vomited. I can still taste the bitter after taste. A mashed attempt of a performance that I regretted paying for and with all the push around his artistry, I was left to wonder if he was indeed the ‘king’ he crowned himself to be or just the hit and run, half baked mediocre artist everyone fears falling in love with and inevitably loath.

Even his Facebook post dated 24 May says it all, “… get ready for new projects”, a statement that can easily be an attempt to wet an appetite of the many sympathisers who might just have lost interest.

His last album in 2016, Tirabhuru, poorly received compared to his first offerings should be an eye opener. No one paid attention to it as if it never exists. Zimbabwe’s diverse audience has no loyalty to a brand or artist and two years is a huge amount of time to leave them waiting. With the music scene awash with new players penetrating into the hearts of many music lovers hoping to keep them hooked, it is really a battle for top honours and a race to the crown. At the moment, Tocky is nowhere near contention,

Vibes could have easily remained afloat with his soulful and loveable ballads that favoured no gender or age. He had grown folk falling for his artistry while the youths saw him as a somewhat musical messiah. Many of his peers, who through the ills begotten by the country, needing no politician or international aid but words of encouragement from one fellow ghetto boy to the other have sought refuge in his lyrics. It is an all too familiar rags to riches story from the boy who was born in a ghetto called Rugare, a stone throw away from Kambuzuma where Winky D was born, defying the odds and singing his way into the hearts of many. But, could he slipping and giving way to many others?

It seems, judging by the works produced by his main rival, Winky D, that he has all but lost the battle.

At 24, surely he has a bright future ahead of him but runs the risk of dwindling into obscurity and needing a search party to rescue. One can only wait for so long without a production and I simply cannot stand his experimentation of sound even with afro jazz and other genres.

The show I mentioned in the beginning of this piece saw him receive a beer can or two in his face after he attempted to dazzle and croon his way out of a much hyped new year’s gig with some mbira, drum and almost trance like performance whilst seated on a huge chair with no socks on! He soon realised the paying mob hath fury.

A part of me wants to give him time, he could soon be back on our playlists again, with a dash of self-revelation. True musicians are not hurried into producing a track, infact the greatest music has been made by investing enough time on it. However, may artists have sunk deeper into oblivion by try to surpass their previous works and losing a footing in the race. He simply has to work on avoiding the latter.

There is a somewhat mediocre bone lodged in his musical anatomy. He has the ability to create great work such as similar to many great artists that have graced the country before him if he searches deep enough within himself. Some of his tracks have simply been too much a lean towards the feel and make of his hit song, Mhai.

I can simply deduce a great artist by the frequency to make hit songs (well thats how we all can) and for him to fall into this category, he has to go beyond just spending time in the studio and creating quality masterpieces. Today’s artists lack professional coaching, a musical ear during their creation processes and constructive critiques. Many have gone on to produce music under the influences of various other stuff including their eagerness to receive radio play and popularity, which is the deadliest form of motivation to any musician.

For long the country has been described as the reggae nation but I guess the many artists that have assumed this genre as a source of living and inspiration have failed to make a single trip to Jamaica as a source of inspiration or study, to get an understanding of where it all began. This I think is a must do in any true and genuine reggae artist.

The Zim-ragga music space is the largest in terms of revenue and following and as such many artists have emerged and are making a living out of it. Yearly, millions of dollars are spent on producing, marketing and performance of the genre, much loved by Zimbabweans all over the world. Their constant appetite for the music feeds these artists into creating more music and such is the circle of life.

Barely four years after his emergence, asking the question of whether he is still relevant might be a bit debatable but I am convinced he has pockets of musical genius in him that he needs dig deep to find within himself to once again come to charm the many of his lovers.

Time will tell.