After more than four decades of spreading the gospel through music, Zimbabwe’s pioneering gospel musician Mechanic Manyeruke has decided to retire from the industry. The 81-year-old, who is widely regarded as the “Father of Gospel Music” in the country, will be honoured with a dinner and a biography launch on 10 November at Marina Casino Conference Centre at Longcheng Plaza, Harare.
Manyeruke, who started his musical journey as a member of the Salvation Army church, rose to fame in the 1980s with his group Mechanic Manyeruke and the Puritans. He recorded several albums, such as Muchandiziva Here and Kubva, that became classics in the genre. He also collaborated with other prominent musicians, such as the late Oliver Mtukudzi, and influenced many gospel artists who came after him.
However, his journey was not without challenges. He had to overcome the stigma of being a gospel musician in a predominantly secular music scene. He also had to balance his musical career with his farming activities, which he says he will continue to do after retirement.
“I don’t want to go and sit down and relax. I am a farmer. I help my wife to rear chickens and the like so I won’t be sitting down and watching. Ndichashanda ndomirawo sa Baba. I am still going strong, don’t worry about age. In the music industry you don’t retire for good. I will be there for as long for as you want me to be there,” he said.
Manyeruke’s biography, titled “Kubva Muguruva”, meaning “From the Rural Areas”, was written by journalist Bornwell Choga, who has covered the musician’s life and work extensively. The book chronicles Manyeruke’s humble beginnings, his rise to stardom, his challenges and achievements, and his legacy in the gospel music industry.
“I had some privilege of sharing a close relationship with Baba having written over 40 articles about him. I managed to go to Baba’s rural home where I spoke with his family and contemporaries. The book will entail his rise from humble beginnings as he once worked as a gardener to the most sought-after musician in Zimbabwe. He (Manyeruke) told me how, at one point, he shared the stage with the late Oliver Mtukudzi in Kwekwe. After his spirited performance, fans chased away Tuku on stage. Such was how big he once became. However, it was an arduous journey as his genre was fairly new back then and had to compete with Chimurenga music which was popular during the liberation struggle,” Choga said.
The dinner and biography launch is being organised by a committee that Manyeruke personally chose. The committee’s member, Reverend Oliver Mandisodza, said the event is meant to celebrate and appreciate Manyeruke’s illustrious career and contribution to the development of church and gospel music in Zimbabwe.
“Baba Manyeruke significantly contributed to the development of church and gospel music in Zimbabwe. In order to give baba a befitting send-off or farewell, the working committee that he personally chose decided to organise a retirement dinner as a way to celebrate his illustrious career. Baba has not been rewarded meaningfully from music proceeds, adding it was appropriate for the music industry to honour his works through gifts. It is therefore necessary as Zimbabweans from all walks of life to rally together and say thank you for being the ‘Father of Gospel Music’ and a good ambassador of this great nation, Zimbabwe. We invite among those who have already expressed their desire to offer gifts to Baba to come forward and do so at this retirement dinner,” Mandisodza said.
The event is expected to attract many dignitaries, musicians, fans, and well-wishers who will join Manyeruke in celebrating his remarkable musical journey. Manyeruke, who is known for his humility and generosity, said he is grateful for the gesture and hopes to continue inspiring others with his music.
“I am humbled by this honour. I thank God for giving me this gift of music and for sustaining me throughout my career. I also thank my family, my fans, my fellow musicians, and everyone who supported me in one way or another. I hope my music will continue to touch lives and bring people closer to God. I may be retiring, but I am not quitting. I will always be there for you,” he said.
In 2013, Manyeruke was promised a posh Jaguar XF car by a local organisation Pride Africa Network, which recognised his decades longs musical career and contribution to the gospel fraternity. The organisation had planned to hand over the vehicle to him on December 19, 2013, but due to some unforeseen circumstances, the gesture did not materialise.
Manyeruke, however, said he does not harbour any ill-feeling about that. He said he appreciates the organisation’s intention and understands that things may not always go as planned.
While his 67-year music career has not brought him much fortune, Manyeruke said he was grateful for the opportunities, exposure, and empowerment amassed throughout his journey. He said he has travelled around the world and performed at some of the biggest events, and shared the stage with the likes of Lucky Dube and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.
“Music has opened doors for me and allowed me to see the world and meet different people. I have been invited to some of the world’s biggest gigs and festivals, where I have represented Zimbabwe and the gospel. I have also met and worked with some of the legends in the music industry, both locally and internationally. Music has been a blessing to me and my family,” he said.