Apr 09, 2014 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
On his first visit to the United States, in the midst of an East Coast tour, international gospel sensation and social activist Tembalami is spending some of his time in Cazenovia and performing three concerts in the village this week.
“It’s like something out of a postcard,” he said of Cazenovia last week. “I think I’ll take pictures of everything, it’s so beautiful here.”
Tembalami Tagwirei— who is typically known simply as “Tembalami” — is a gospel musician from Zimbabwe with a passion for inspiring, motivating and educating the current as well as the next generation. His first solo album, “Brighter Day,” released in 2011, has had three hit songs on radio — and in Zimbabwe a radio single is a big deal.
“In a country with only three radio stations, if your song gets on the radio, you’ve made it,” said Simba Moyo, Tembalami’s drummer, who, along with keyboardist Tatenda Mathe, is part of Tembalami’s band.
Tembalami’s U.S. tour, Project It Takes a Village, kicked off in New Jersey in late March, went to North Carolina and this weekend is in Syracuse and Cazenovia. According to ZimEye, the Zimbabwe news source, Tembalami is “Zimbabwe’s most popular gospel and grooviest of all artistes … who took Zimbabwe by storm in 2012,” and “his song ‘Tomurumbidza,’ is set to set the U.S. on fire with a host of the latest powerful original hits.”
Tembalami, 32, has been singing his entire life and for a while was a secular pop musician. “There were huge crowds, number one records but no satisfaction,” he told the Cazenovia Republican. “It took a while to find my place in the world. I wanted to do music that impacted people’s lives positively.”
When he switched to gospel music he performed at churches, weddings and funerals; often, hurting and depressed people would contact him afterward to say his music played a role in their lives, he said. And now, because of technology, his music also spreads beyond Zimbabwe and across the globe.
Tembalami is not just a singer, however. He has been an active church member for more than a decade; is one of the founding members of Zimpraise, a group of Gospel artists who came together to perform and teach music in high schools; and has partnered with Hope 2day International, an organization that focuses on career guidance programs for schools in high density suburbs.
As a social activist, his passion is health and education, he said. One of his main projects is working with orphan education in Zimbabwe, where there is no free public schooling. “Less fortunate kids cannot afford to pay for school, and we raise money to do that,” he said. He also spends a lot of his time promoting cervical cancer and HIV/AIDS education and research.
In fact, his U.S. Tour came to fruition when Cazenovia College Visiting Professor Joy Fashu Kanu, who was born and raised in Zimbabwe and moved to the United States in 1997, contacted him and invited him to the states.
In 2013, Kanu was lying injured in bed after a car accident, feeling depressed, needing inspiration and to hear her own language. She went online and searched for Zimbabwean gospel music and found Tembalami.
“I found him, and his voice, his songs … he was saying, ‘I surrender to you God,’ and that’s what I was saying. But he was so upbeat; it was a joyful submission,” she said. “And I said I’m going to dance one day like he is dancing.”
So Kanu bought Tembalani’s album — which she calls “one of the greatest of my life” — and said she called and emailed everyone she knew to tell them to listen to his music. Eventually, she said, she had a dream to invite Tembalami to the U.S. to perform, and after emailing him and meeting him in Zimbabwe, that dream became a reality.
Tembalami and his band arrived in late March in New York City and kicked off the tour on March 29. They played in Brooklyn, New Jersey and North Carolina, and came up to Syracuse for this weekend’s performances.
“The reception’s been great … I’m just overwhelmed,” he said. “Amazing. It’s just been amazing.”
The reception has been so great, in fact, that he already has extended his tour by one week in order to return to New Jersey for more performances and to accept an invitation to sing in Washington D.C. He received even more invitations to stay and perform, but he has to return to Zimbabwe for other, previously scheduled concerts, he said.
While in Cazenovia and Syracuse, Tembalami has four performances on his schedule. On Wednesday, April 9, he will perform a special show only for Cazenovia College students at 9 p.m. in the college dining hall.
His major local event, and one of the main reasons he traveled to the U.S., is to perform at a fundraiser breakfast from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday, April 12, at the Sheraton at Syracuse University for HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe. Tickets are $17 in advance and $20 at the door.
The Sheraton breakfast is the launch of the Constance Sithole Scholarship Fund which seeks to “pay it forward” by paying for school fees for those of Zimbabwean children who have been impacted by HIV/AIDS. The scholarship was founded by Kanu in honor of her mother who passed away last June.
“Because she was an educator, I felt compelled to honor her life by extending to others what she gave me — an education,” Kanu said.
At 6:30 p.m. that same night, Saturday, April 12, Tembalami will perform in Cazenovia at Summit Church, in the United Methodist Building located at 21 Lincklaen St., in a concert that is free and open to the public. He will perform again at 11:15 a.m. the next morning, Sunday April 13, also at Summit Church for the congregation, although the public is also invited to attend.
In the end, everything Tembalami does is intended to praise God, inspire people and make the world a better place.
“Whatever we do God should be praised; it should not be about Tembalami,” he said. “If we can touch someone’s life and they touch someone’s life, before you know it you have inspired a nation.”
For more information about Tembalami, to hear his music or see his future performance dates, visit his Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/TEMBALAMI/49994092749. For more information on Project It Takes a Village, visit pitav.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.