'Mbira music not devilish'

BULAWAYO - Bulawayo-based musician Israel Israel is proud to be one of the few musicians popularising the use of mbira in gospel music even though the ancient musical instrument is frowned upon by many Christians.

His music, which is dominated by mbira rhythm, looks set to redefine the Zimbabwean way of worship which is largely dominated by Eurocentric music.

 Israel, an award-winning artist, has recorded two albums in a quest to debunk the notion that mbira gospel is heathen.

“I sing gospel in the African way and I use African dances,” said Israel who won the Three-Dimensional Award at the National Art Merit Awards (Nama) held in Bulawayo early this year.

“There is nothing wrong about being black and being proud of our culture,” Israel told the Daily News.

 The dreadlocked musician is a devout Christian who is strong in his quest to be a unique gospel musician.

 “People have a problem with everything that is African. Mbira and African drums are as good as modern instruments. It just depends who you are giving praise to,” he said.

Israel believes indigenous musical instruments are despised because pioneering Christian missionaries brainwashed Africans when they came to evangelise Africa.

The multi-talented artist says gospel musicians who use the mbira instrument should not apologise.

“We are bringing the good news through music. So if an artiste wants to venture into gospel using mbira they should not feel pressured to do otherwise”, said the musician-cum sculptor.

His albums are Umfazo (Uprising) and Umhaso (The Attack) which encourage Christians to continue their fight against evil.

Umfazo carries songs such as Qha which is about the supremacy of God. The song has received fair airplay on local radio stations.

Israel, who concedes that he has not benefitted much financially, attributes his development in music to fellow Bulawayo musician Jeys Marabini.

“He is humble and he loves promoting upcoming artistes, I hope all musicians will rally behind him on the Bulawayo Come Alive Festival,” Israel said.

On his forthcoming album, Israel will work with Pozee, a Christian poet called Ester Masuku and Sthandazile Dube. - Nyasha Chingono

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