AFTER relocating to the United Kingdom some years back, gospel musician Timothy Ngwenya has released a string of albums that have helped him establish a new fan base in Europe.
On September 2 this year, he dropped his fifth album, a 10-track effort titled Taurai Neni, featuring over 10 guest artistes. Ngwenya has also spread his wings to encompass gospel music promotion in the UK and has invited a number of local gospel artistes to perform for the Zimbabwean Diasporan in the European country.
NewsDay correspondent Jairos Saunyama (ND) had a sit-down with Ngwenya (TN) and discussed his music and work. Below are the excerpts from the interview.
ND: You have not stopped releasing albums since you relocated to the UK, how is your music career like in a foreign land?
TN: I do have a very positive response in the UK and we are gaining ground as far as gospel music is concerned. I now have followers even in Dubai, Ireland, Australia, Canada, France and Germany, only to mention a few. After the release of the latest album, Taurai Neni, I am looking forward to amazing tours.
ND: What is the force behind you pushing gospel music in a foreign land? How do you balance that with work?
TN: In the UK, they promote life after work, they promote flexibility and advise people not to be yoked to their work, but have a social life outside (work). They also give freedom to express your gifts or talent, which inspires me to work hard. I actually take music as full time than the work I do.
ND: You invited South Africa’s Godfrey Mondlane and Zimbabwean musician Togarepi Chivaviro to grace your latest album launch. Isn’t that an expensive venture? And why those two in particular?
TN: I have learnt so much from Reverend Chivaviro and Godfrey Mondlane and when it comes to music, these are the names that come to my mind. They support me so much and I was happy to be surrounded by such influential people at the launch.
ND: When performing live in the UK, who is your target audience? Zimbabweans?
TN: Our live shows have really been meant for our own community, but after realising that we have a mixed community, we are working on bringing all races together and this is why you find all races in our concerts. In most of my shows, we have musicians from Zimbabwe and South Africa, and other countries, including locals. The English are asking why we don’t include local ones and this is what we are working on now.
ND: Why did you feature a lot of local artistes on your latest album?
TN: I’ve worked with 13 musicians on my new album to show the world that positive relationships bring so much strength to the things we do in life. You cannot do it alone. We need each other always.
ND: Working with 13 musicians can be stressful, how did you manage that? How long did it take for you to finish the album?
TN: At first, I thought it was going to be difficult working with different musicians, but it was very easy because they all took the project as theirs and they were actually pushing me to finish the project. It took us time to rehearse and prepare the music, but when we started recording, it took us around three months to finish, although our producer, Moses Gavaza, was working day and night.
ND: When did you last perform in your home country?
TN: It has been a long time since I last performed in Zimbabwe and that actually makes me sad because I love my country. However, I am working on a concert scheduled for end of year and I cannot wait for the shows lined up. More information will be coming. I also have another concert in South Africa.
ND: You are doubling as a gospel music promoter in the UK, bringing artistes to perform there, is it for financial gain?
TN: I am a musician who has seen it all in terms of being promoted and that is why I have become a promoter for the benefit of fellow musicians, for I understand what they need when it comes to concerts. It is something I am not doing for the love of money, but passion and love for gospel music.
ND: How do you market your music? And who does that in Zimbabwe?
TN: I am distributing my music to Zimbabwe through radio and television stations and we have a marketing manager, who is working on the distribution of music in Zimbabwe. The world has turned into an easy access to reach everyone around the globe and we are doing our best to connect all.
ND: Of all your albums, which album do you take as you favourite and why?
TN: All the music I have written has always been best, although this latest one seems to have so much strength because the music is just different. ach song you listen to stands out on its own. It is a unique album.
ND: What is your advice to upcoming gospel musicians, speaking from your experience?
TN: Free advice to other gospel artistes: one person who listens to your music is very important because you build from one. Don’t do it for money, but for the love and passion of the music and everything else comes later.
ND: Our gospel musicians haven’t done much to break into the international market. What could be the problem?
TN: It’s not easy to break through other cultures because we do things differently. We have our own musicians, be it secular or gospel, and they also have theirs and it’s not easy to accept a different culture altogether. We end up starting to reach out to our own communities internationally. We also do not have exposure internationally because even fellow Zimbabwean promoters abroad promote big names like South African Rebecca Malope and very few take time to promote upcoming or not much famous Zimbabwean artistes.
ND: Thank you so much, Timothy, for your time.
TN: My pleasure.