Members of the Zhombe-based Vashandiri Vashe Voices gospel music group

Vashandiri Vashe: A Zhombe musical group rocking national gospel charts

By Felix Chiroro

ZHOMBE hardly makes it to national news headlines. Since the days of Learnmore Jongwe who died nearly 20 years ago, it’s rare to find a Zhombe story on radio or in national newspapers unless it’s to do with a violent death at an unlicensed gold mining site or some other crime.

READ ALSO:  Zhombe gold miner rapes own Form 3 daughter hundreds of times

To those who cannot locate Zhombe on the map, it is a mining community in the Midlands Province, perched between Kadoma to the East and Gokwe to the West. Despite its backwater status, the people of Zhombe are notorious for their determination to succeed against the odds, and for supporting each other build a community long forgotten by public officials.

Admittedly, there have been positive stories here and there, but these have often been far outweighed by the droughts, the violence, the crimes and the astonishing rate of school dropouts.

When a colleague and homeboy in South Africa alerted me on the Vashandiri Vashe Voices exploits on national radio, I immediately abandoned my Saturday routine and switched on the radio. Their song “Hoyo Mushandiri” had been on position 16 out of 20 the past week, and it climbed up the charts to number 10 on the first day I listened to it on radio!

As someone born and bred in Zhombe, hearing a musical group from home tussle it out with well-oiled music bands from across Zimbabwe on national radio left me in near tears. The Vashandiri Vashe Voices, formed in 2016, comprises mainly youths who praise and worship through music and are based right here in rural Zhombe. 

Members of the Zhombe-based Vashandiri Vashe Voices gospel music group

In mid-June, their song “Hoyo Mushandiri” off their first album “Enda Uvake Areka” debuted on Radio Zimbabwe Gospel 20 played every Saturday morning.

Some of us with Zhombe blood running in their veins confess that we have had to shift our Saturday routines to listen to the gospel show and also support our home group by voting their song.

Group members

The Vashandiri Vashe Voices group comprises ten members who are from Sidakeni, Mangwarangwara and Bee Mine business centres:

1. Willard Mugere
2. Simon Ziyambe
3. Zodwa Masina
4. Isheanesu Mugere (Chisango)
5. Felistas Chisango
6. Simbarashe Mugere
7. Stanley Zidhlani
8. Prosper Chisango
9. Carlton Takwara
10. Melusi Mabusela

In the early stages of the group, a mother from nearby Kasawe business center worked with them, but she later on excused herself following the death of her husband.

The group then worked with one Mr. Moyo from Empress Mine. He too stepped aside later on and Zodwa Masina, popularly known as Mai Eliza, joined the group as Mother Advisor. That was in February 2020.

“We would perform at overnight gatherings and get paid a token of appreciation, maybe US$10. We performed at funerals of church members and other church functions,” Zodwa told this writer in the presence of other group members.

Members of the Zhombe-based Vashandiri Vashe Voices gospel music group

For the group to stay intact and practising week in week out for five years without cashing in any money, that takes great commitment and focus. These are mainly young people with young families for God’s sake.

“We never charged a specific fee for our performances,” Zodwa added, explaining how the group managed to record its album.

She continued: “The token payments we received grew into savings in own pockets. With some other support from a few locals, we hired a commuter omnibus and took the trip to Gweru to record our debut album.”

The album, titled “Enda Uvake Areka” was recorded in Gweru at GM Studios. The group expressed gratitude to the producers for understanding their unique circumstances during the recording of the songs.

The group members told this writer how they made the trip to Gweru, then a seemingly small step that has now landed them on national musical charts.

Members of the Zhombe-based Vashandiri Vashe Voices gospel music group

“We arrived in Gweru at around 4am. The producer wanted us to record two songs per day, which would have seen us stay in Gweru for at least three days.

“We pleaded to be allowed to record all our songs in one day as we had no place to stay in Gweru and no funds for our upkeep as well. In the end, our plea was heard and we finished recording in the evening of the same day. By 7pm, we were already on our hired omnibus heading back home to Zhombe,” said the group members.

With the songs now recorded and in good sound quality, Radio Zimbabwe picked up the “Mushandiri Washe” track and it is already a hit on the Gospel Top 20. Gospel Top 20 is a weekly feature of the top 20 hospel songs of the week. The songs are voted in by listeners via a Radio Zimbabwe WhatsApp platform.

“Mushandiri Washe” debuted the charts at number 16, before moving up 6 places to number 10 the following Saturday, when I was first forced to abandon a routine I so love.

As I finished writing this article this Saturday, 10 July 2021, the song “Hoyo Mushandiri” was perched at number 9, yet another improvement from last weekend.

Album tracks

1. Mweya Wangu – lead singer Melusi Mabusela
2. Touya Kwamuri – lead singer Melusi Mabusela
3. Hoyo Mushandiri – lead singer Zodwa Masina
4. Nowa Nowa – lead singer Willard Mugere
5. Zadzisai Chirevo – lead singer Willard Mugere
6. Tirimo Munzira – lead singer Willard Mugere

As can be seen from the track titles, the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe has a huge influence on the Vashandiri Vashe Voices music and style, something not surprising considering that the members are Wesleyans.

Members of the Zhombe-based Vashandiri Vashe Voices gospel music group

The Vashandiri Vashe Voices group performs under very difficult circumstances. It’s a miracle they have remained intact over the past five years and landed on national musical charts with little support from the greater community. But it is never too late to support a good cause, and any amount of support would be greatly appreciated.

As said already, the bulk of the group members are youths who are single or recently married. They are family people carrying responsibilities to feed their families, and also carrying the unquenchable thirst to sing for God, for Zhombe and for Zimbabwe. They can easily achieve both with our support.

The front CD view of the Vashandiri Vashe Voices debut album “Enda Uvake Areka”

They walk up to 7 kilometres to the practice point. This writer observed that this, together with family responsibilities, sometimes takes a toll on their practice sessions which must be held weekly.

“We would like to practise more frequently but at times members fail to attend due to various challenges,” said a member.

For a group that is just making it on national radio, branding and visibility are key. Except for the horn trumpet, all the materials they used to produce were borrowed. Owning their own instruments would greatly help them during practice and when recording. It would also significantly reduce their costs of production.

Members of the Zhombe-based Vashandiri Vashe Voices gospel music group

Group promotional materials such as t-shirts, caps, track suits, banners and other visibility enhancements will help the group stay in tje picture locally and at the national level.

The least someone can do especially in the present moment is to vote for their song to scale up the Gospel Top 20 charts. The programme airs every Saturday at 08.00hrs Zimbabwe time. However,  voting can take place any time any day of the week via the following procedures:

How to vote

1. Add the Radio Zimbabwe WhatsApp number (+263)714024553 to your contacts.
2. Tap this contact in WhatsApp and type the following message:  #Hoyo Mushandiri, Vashandiri Vashe Voices.
3. Tap the send button.

Saturday mornings for me are religiously spent jogging a 4 kilometre stretch, inspecting my crops and livestock, taking a bath and reading a host of morning newspapers before finally sitting down for breakfast. It’s a therapeutic routine I’ve perfected since donkeys years ago, and one that I hardly break as long I’m home.

It took the Vashandiri Vashe Voices gospel musical group to make me break this routine. And this Saturday, 10 July, is the third consecutive weekend I’ve had to stick around listening to Radio Zimbabwe.

You may sample some of the songs I have shared below.

Hoyo Mushandiri
Mweya Wangu

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