Gospel music is at most the singing of the doctrine and unquestionable truth of a religious grouping. In Zimbabwean Christianity, gospel music at most functions acts as the source of education and entertainment for Christians whilst also being used to bring more converts into the Church.
It was always seen as an unmarketable genre by earlier record labels and recording studios given that a few gospel tracks are known to have existed from the 1980’s at least.
The renowned superstar, the late Dr “Tuku” Mtukudzi had a collection of gospel songs he recorded over a generation back then. The likes of Baba Jordan Chataika are credited as being the pioneer leaders of the Zimbabwean gospel music movement.
The period culminating into the new millennium was characterised by music from Baba and Amai Charamba with the Fishers of Men. The name of their backing group could not have been more clear and direct about the form of gospel music from that period in time. The name Fishers of Men portrayed evangelism and its role within the church.
Baba Manyeruke was yet another iconic figure who took up the gauntlet to take gospel music out of the church and onto the airwaves alongside other genres.
The men and women who made up the Chitungwiza Harmony Singers contributed immensely to gospel music as their melodic hymns captured the attention of many music lovers.
Local television in Zimbabwe in the 2000’s had programs such as Psalmody and the Prime Gospel Show that afforded the nation an opportunity to view videos from gospel musicians.
Before the popularity of Reverend T. Chivaviro and Mathias Mhere there was Blessing Shumba and his contemporaries who had come after the likes of Mercy Mutsvene.
Before the aforementioned, gospel music could not be talked about without the mentioning of Amai Shingisai Suluma, Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave, Ivy Kombo and her Nguva Yakwana episodes as well as Kudzi Nyakudya and others.
Gospel music strengthened the Christian beliefs. It educated the audience on the admirable Biblical characters and emphasised on the great work of the Holy Trinity. In the words of some, gospel music touched and changed lives.
Lately, questions have arisen over what can be termed as gospel music. Earlier leaders in the genre sang some songs that did not mention any Biblical characters but referred to Christian doctrine and the music was termed gospel.
Present artistes have been perhaps experimenting with characters such as Pharaoh, Goliath and Nebuchadnezzar amongst others. Part of the audience which has taken a keen following in the genre from over two decades back has deemed the songs as not “gospel” enough.
The questions arising focuses on the definition of gospel music, whether or not it has a formula that is to be followed and if it does have boundaries. Most Importantly, the rhetoric of who and what governs the genre have been recurring constantly. It is quite very much a case in the hands of the audience to make the ruling and give the judgement thus.