Mahendere, the minister of gospel


SOUNDTRACK:Winstone Antonio

LISTENING to Michael Mahendere, popularly known as “Minister” in gospel music circles speaking, one can easily tell he oozes with confidence and authority.

This is the same with deep worship music that has seen him singing his way onto the list of the country’s finest gospel music acts.

While local gospel music fans have fond memories of the hugely-popular Mahendere Brothers with their catchy video of them dressed in long white robes and belting out appealing music, Michael — the youngest after Akim, Amos and Misheck — appears to have gone a step further than his brothers.

The award-winning Minister Mahendere went ”solo” in 2012, releasing his debut album, Getting Personal with God 1, backed by his group, Direct Worship.

When he released the debut album, eight years ago, for me he sealed his status as a gospel musician to watch as there was no doubt that with his rich compositions he was onto something.

The celebrated musician, who is also a pastor with Emmanuel Makandiwa’s United Family International Church — has also been involved in tracks such as Makanaka Jesu, Tawanirwa Nyasha, Mweya Mutsvene and Salt of the Earth.

Over the years, in his compositions, Minister Mahendere has found a way of incorporating both the yesteryear and new generations by blending African rhythms with an American feel, all rich in vocals.

The Makanaka hitmaker appears to have mastered the art of attracting fans across the divide as his compositions contain both English and Shona, making it listenable to fans of different backgrounds.

On Thursday last week, he launched his latest single Ndovimba Nemi, that loosely translates to ’I have faith in you God’ at a private event held at Gotcha Nyama restaurant in Newlands, Harare.

The worship with a bit of praise song is an appetiser of his forthcoming album, Secret Place of Worship Live DVD which is scheduled for release later next month. The video to the song will be released on March 27.

According to Mahendere, he released the song first as a marketing strategy to make people listen and understand the song more before visuals.

The mid-tempo song is an uplifting composition which centres on the singer’s personal experience. The song is set in a southern African music feel infused with rich guitar work and a balanced vocal melody supported by trumpets and saxophone.

Of late, Mahendere has been performing the song at a number of concerts and judging from the people’s responses each time it is performed, it has been well received.

Like what his elder brother, Amos, said at the launch of his third album, Getting Personal with God 3, in 2017 that Mahendere siblings never settled for shoddy work, the singer has continued to show his composing prowess complemented with an impressive arrangements of instruments.

“Michael is one person who argues for quality to an extent that you can leave recording and come the next day. He can tell you that the lead guitarist is wrong and he can grab the guitar and then demonstrate (how it should be done),” Amos said.

This is exactly what Mahendere has maintained over the years in all his compositions and is on record saying he writes every song out of an experience that will also be conveyed to the audiences.

True to his narration, indeed, Ndovimba Nemi is an anthem, a rallying call to those who trust in God.

“The song Ndovimba Nemi is a declaration of an unwavering stance and an intentional choice to trust Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. These days, whichever way we look, there is negative information that is designed to cause fear and despair,” he said.

“This is a unifying melody reminding the saints to trust in the Lord. Why call it an anthem, some may ask? An anthem is defined as a rousing or uplifting song identified with a particular group, body or cause.”

Minister Mahendere said he released the song timely hoping that it will give hope to people amid the current global pandemic COVID-19 that has also claimed the life of a scribe, Zororo Makamba, son of business mogul James.

“I wanted to give people the message of hope, considering we are affected by this pandemic, COVID-19. This is the time we should pray and turn to God. It is part of my on-coming project,” he said.

“There is a place I usually go for praying and it came to mind, I heard a voice — ‘Mweya Mutsvene . . .’ I then went back to the place in 2018 for more inspiration. Some of the songs we are singing now were written in 2008 and 2010.”

The multi-talented Mahendere once played for Andy Brown (late), Dino Mudondo, Willom Tight, Pax Afro and late music super star cum national hero Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi.

Interestingly, during those club performances, Mahendere claims that he used to wear a cap, hiding because he did not want people to see him.

The singer is also a keen businessman, vocal trainer, music director conversant with a host of instruments, guitars, drums and keyboards.

With Minister Mahendere, there is no doubt that the Mahendere legacy still lives on.