29 May 2018
GOSPEL supremo Pastor Charles Charamba has come with advice to upcoming musicians to respect band members and fans and not take them as an opportunity for secret sex sessions.
The man needs no introduction. He has been in the industry for two decades and he has seen it all together with his wife and singer Olivia. He is a torch-bearer in the industry and surely can be answerable to the growth and or collapse of the industry.
A number of questions were posed at him, seeking his opinion on the genre, the changes, current state and future prospects. Read on . . .
QUESTION: What has changed since the 90s when you started your music journey?
ANSWER: Migration of sound from analogue to digital is the major change, followed by the ballooning in terms of artiste population. Among these are below average, average and exceptionally talented musicians scrambling for space. We have become a mixed bag when one looks at it from an ethical point of view- there are rarely common schools of thought shared among artists due to vast ideological differences. Of concern as well is lack of knowledge on music matters among some young artistes such that some take up regrettable steps in shaping music careers. Mai Charamba and I meet an average of four emerging artistes per week and we try to educate them with the little that we know.
Some critics are of the view that gospel music is nose-diving?
A: Gospel music shall remain the music of choice on our land. Its rise is unassuming. It is the most consistent genre in this country regardless of the emergence of other contemporary music styles such as Zimdancehall, AfroFusion and others. It may not be a genre of big bubbles but is so much present. With the coming on board of musicians who include Sabastian Magacha, Minister Michael Mahendere, Takesure Zamar Ncube, Pastor Olinda, Blessing Shumba, Tete Munyaradzi Charamba, Nyakudya, Mathias Mhere, Rumbi Gatawa and a lot other promising recent entrants, I don’t see the genre losing taste at all. Mai Charamba and I are also fully committed to uplifting Jesus’ name through song and geared to do more. However, although we are the genre of choice, one of our major threats as Gospel artistes is monotony.
What is the current state of gospel music and its future?
A: Gospel music hasn’t declined as such, it’s doing well. It’s the one that is dominating charts nearly in all radio stations. It’s important to note that the environment is saturated due to an overflow of content. An average person’s phone has so much entertainment in it nowadays – drama, chain messages, comedy, and music of all sorts. Gospel music finds itself among such content, equally demanding for attention. It wasn’t the same situation two decades ago. Entertainment didn’t come cheap. Unfortunately these changes are not only a Zimbabwean phenomenon but global.
The music industry in general is moving towards the adoption of extremism in the quest to be known and I urge fellow artistes to exercise restraint for the sake of godliness and Ubuntu/ Unhu. Gospel being a godly genre won’t match or identify with some of the standards set by other genres and when it sticks to its line of mission, in an environment where other genres may resort to conduct like nudity, vulgarity, political controversy to draw public attention, we can’t say it would have declined. It shall remain the most effective music for the soul, remember Gospel Music is the only music that we sing while burying the dead so it escorts humans throughout a lifetime. The dead are buried through a gospel song, the deceased are consoled by a gospel song, it is the truest and most sincere hence its relevance until Christ returns.
Should gospel music products be for free or sold?
A: If there was a way, it could have been for free, however Gospel music is not a product that comes for free. It involves a lot of investments and financial transactions. While it is true that salvation has been paid for by Christ, singing about it and publishing the song that invites souls to Christ requires money. Commercial laws apply in all the dealings in Gospel Music, whole chain that involves music production, CD replication, printing and duplication demands that the artiste pays. At Fishers of Men, we have recently acquired studio gadgets that cost thousands of dollars just to enhance sound quality, surely it is not ungodly to ask for a dollar from one who wants the music.
What is you take on “Copycats”?
A: I don’t have copycats, it would be irresponsible of me to call my admirers by that name. For the record, Charles Charamba has protégés, mentees or disciples not copycats. Within my discography two or so songs have some traces of my own musical heroes, who am I to discourage those who are learning from me? Multiplication of emulators, to me, will never be a topical issue. I encourage them to grow to be their own men or women so that they are distinctively identifiable. Identity can be everything in music. While it’s not a crime to emulate forerunners, it is retrogressive to you if you fail to curve your own identity. I put emphasis on the importance of a clear-cut, unmistakable musical signature. In as much as I got inspired by others, I have created my own conspicuous identity, something very important for every artiste to ponder. I will however never be hurt or feel insecure because of their existence I will love them all, they will evolve someday. I have strong reservations when it comes to the use of my name as well as images on one’s product by the artiste, or anyone within their ranks for commercial expediency.
What keeps you out of controversies?
A: I am human like everyone else, I believe I am only a saint from the Biblical redemption perspective, not from a moral point of view. I owe my controversy-free life to Jesus, His word is the lamp to my feet (Psa 119:105). I try to be true to myself and those around me every moment regardless of the cost. I always watch my egos and desires and try to live within my means in pursuance of my God-given mandate. Controversies are not associated with bad deeds always, sometimes good people are haunted for their goodness, just like Jesus who was criticized for healing the sick on a Sabbath.
Where do you see yourself in 5 Years?
A: God granting life and by His grace, I see myself doing more for Christ. My road map is broadening. I will be composing and recording and preaching. I was commissioned to sing, and instructed to pursue theological training. Am a two-edged instrument for Jesus ndiri we “Pashoko Pangoma”(Song and Sermon). There is an outcry among those who have heard me deliver pulpit sermons, they also want more. Now that the studies that prompted me to take a leave from congressional duties are over, I will revert to church leadership in a moment, balancing it with music.
Are you grooming any of your children to take up music?
A: There will definitely be musicians among our children. They are all musical however, they will decide on their own whether to get into a mainstream mode like us or not. There is no compulsion, yet there is certainty. Some out there are aware that my youngest sister, Tete Munya is now a recording singer.
Your advice to young artistes?
A: Firstly I say always learn to reflect on your failures and successes. Without delay, pick your pieces and move forward.
Secondly, give people quality services or ministrations whenever possible. A concert is paid for, perform for the audience rather than expecting them to perform for you.
Music is a reciprocally transacted art form, there are times when you follow the crowd, but in most cases let the crowd follow you, work hard to earn the respect of your fans. Also respect life, including yours. You live once, take care. Draw a visible line between activities on the stage and the bed, mix not the two, music is a profession worthy a measure of integrity like any other. Fellow band members or contemporary artistes are either brothers or sisters, not secret or casual sex partners. Fans are the masters. God is the most faithful rewarder. Don’t apologize for excellence. Lastly, take note, there’s someone out there better than you in what you’re doing, the difference between the two of you is, you are “ already in an opportunity” and they are waiting for their opportunity, don’t brag around.
Your take on piracy?
A: Piracy remains one of the biggest challenges for artistes. Some among artistes view it as counterproductive while others thinks it promotes publicity. While it is a worldwide challenge, it enjoys a much warmer hospitality in our country due to lake of collective will. Our esteemed government can surely do better in dealing with this cancer. Intellectual property is property. If managed well, the creative sector of this country can market this nation to unbelievable heights. We need to count the creative sector as a part of industry, and it deserves the same attention as that which is given to elsewhere. I have the faith that the newer political season shall bring smiles on artistes’ faces
Mai Charamba has been visible on the streets selling music, some feel this will damage the Charamba brand?
A: She is awaiting completion of a more formal complex in town from where she will be doing business. There are very few music outlets retailing on music products apart from pirates. Due to the fact that our music is on demand, she felt an urge to avail it to the demanding public as she counts down towards relocating to the pending structure. I respect her view and her views.
What’s in store for all the Fishers Of Men music lovers?
A: There are plenty of releases ahead. Some of my first ever compositions haven’t been recorded, except Handidi Naye, released in 2000. Chronologically speaking, all the songs that I have recorded came after seven or so in terms of composing. They are also coming in the near future.
You change in sound how has it fared?
A: WeNazareta deliberately sounded jazzy though not typical. Abba Father is traditional Charamba style. Voice of Miriam is also typical Mai Charamba but with a contemporary feel. A candid follower of our music will always confess that we don’t duplicate albums though we maintain a distinct signature.
I understand you are working on videos?
A: Our videos this time around are of a timeless quality. There is quite some improvement on the picture quality. For my Gospel catalogue, I last stood in front of a camera in 2001 and the songs of that era are the only ones that have been available pictorially. Now I will be heeding the call of my fans who were demanding videos.