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Pastor Charles and Olivia Charamba

P astor Charles Charamba is Zimbabwe’s most influential gospel musician and songwriter who has reinvented religious music with his eclectic style, blending traditional beats such as mbakumba and mhande and with modern styles and lyrics covering biblical messages and contemporary social issues. He is part of a generation of gospel musicians who emerged at a time religious music, derided as “church music” by some, was seen as the sort of music fit only for Sunday listening accompanying radio sermons, Christian worship sessions and other church functions.

Background and Profile

With his own compositions, as opposed to the easier umpteenth revamp of well-known traditional hymns and popular western spirituals --- Pastor Charamba has won the hearts of many from diverse backgrounds with lyrics covering a broad spectrum of themes ranging from biblical ethics to commentary on current issues such as moral/spiritual decadence, the HIV pandemic, parenting, traffic safety ---creating a buffet for fans of different tastes to take a pick from.

Charles Charamba was baptized in the AFM in 1989, by Elder Kachepa in Mudzi after turning to Christ in August 1988. He recorded his first seven single in 1995 which was followed by Tinashe Akatendeka, his debut album in 1997. He enrolled with Living Waters Bible Seminary in 1998 graduating with a Diploma in Theology in 2000. He proceeded to study for a Bachelor’s degreethe following year . He is an Ordained Pastor with the AFM and has pastored in Chisipite and Borrowdale as a probationer and associate in respective Churches. He was the inaugural Pastor for Hatcliffe North Assembly where he ministered for close to six years before enrolling for an Africa University Music degree programme.


Inspiration, Recognition and Achievements

So pervasive is his music’s appeal that it is not surprising any more to hear a Charamba song being played in bars and others venues where gospel music was scoffed at. With his wife Mai (a Shona title for a motherly figure) Olivia Charamba, a gifted vocalist in her own right with three best-selling albums to her name, they have become known as The First Family of gospel music in Zimbabwe. Backed by Fishers Of Men which also plays instruments for Mai Charamba on separate projects, Pastor Charamba has produced a string of best-selling albums, won accolades including those of best gospel artiste in the Zimbabwe Music Awards (ZIMA), National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA), Song and Video of the Year and a Lifetime Achievement and draws massive crowds to his concerts locally and abroad. The track Mhinduro Iripo from his 1999 album John 3:16 was on number one position on the then Radio 2 for four months and was voted Song of The Year and was on air during the crossover into the new millennium. The 2005 combined live recording with his wife The Charambas In Concert was a pacesetter as the first live recording by a Zimbabwean gospel group . While other musicians have had to struggle to gain recognition in the early stages of their careers, Charamba “arrived ready-made” (to borrow Chinua Achebe’s description of Nigerian literary prodigy Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), won himself followers with his debut release and has not disappointed ever since. Charamba attributes his success to the perfectionism inculcated in him by his late father who strived to shock people with the mastery evident in whatever he did.

Background and Profile - Amai Olivia Charamba

Mai Charamba, is Zimbabwe’s top female musician and the other half of the celebrated couple, The Charambas, known to their fans as the First Family of gospel music. She emerged from being a little-known backing vocalist for her husband Pastor Charles Charamba to Number One with her 2000 debut album, Amen, with songs composed by Pastor Charamba and featuring friends Tariro (Matongorewa) Muringa and Spiwe (Murerwa) Chimuti as backing vocalists.

The album was a bestseller, made history as the first record by a female artiste to sell more than 80,000 copies, according to record industry statistics and won Mai Charamba an award for the Best Gospel Album of the year. Dr Ezra Chitando, an Associate Professor in History and Phenomenology of Religion at the University of Zimbabwe says in his book Singing Culture: “Her album Amen sold quickly and confirmed her as a serious musician in her own right not just (Pastor) Charles Charamba’s wife.” Besides Amen, she has released two other phenomenal albums namely Daily Bread and The Gospel all that have gone platinum, all selling more than 100 000 copies within a year of release date. She has won numerous awards in categories that include Best Female Musician, Best Gospel musician, Best Gospel album, Most Outstanding Female Musician. She has been nominated in categories that include Best video, Outstanding Song and many others. She also studied for a Diploma in Theology for three years at Living Waters Seminary where she graduated in 2003