This yearÃ¢â‚¬Ëœs Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) Our People Our Pride event held at the New State House in MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s capital city, Lilongwe, on 30 December exposedÃ‚Â GogoÃ‚Â Gome Nyasulu, a woman who has composed over 300 religious songs, such as the renown Ã¢â‚¬ËœNdidzamuwona ndekha mpulumutsiyoÃ¢â‚¬Â.
This hardworking 82 year-old woman, who says she is still composing music, tells Albert Sharra about her life and talent.Ã‚Â
You are called Gogo Nyasulu. Is this your real name?
Not really! But you can only find me if you use this name. My real name is Etherine Nyasulu but people decided to call me Gogo Nyasulu as a way of respecting me because of my age. I must say that I am proud to be calledÃ‚Â gogo!
When and where were you born?
I come from Luwawa Village, Traditional Authority Mwahenga in Rumphi but I was born in 1928 at Kaporo, Karonga. I have lived in various place but my last home is here in Mzuzu.
Can you take us through your educational background?
I did my education at various schools but I attained my advanced education at Malamulo in Thyolo where I trained as a primary school teacher. After graduating from Malumulo, I got married to Kennedy Nyasulu, a fellow trained teacher, a few weeks after the graduation.
We both started teaching at Luwazi Mission School in Nkhata Bay in the early months of 1949. While working as a teacher, I enrolled for an accounting course with Solusi College now Solusi University, Zimbabwe via correspondence but before I finished the programme, my husband was sentÃ‚Â to study towards a bachelors degree in theology in Zimbabwe. This was sponsored by the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Church.
I escorted him and rejoined the programme on a full time basis. When we came back, I worked as an accountant until my retirement in 1991.
Should I assume that you felt teaching wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t your calling?
Oh! No. Teaching is a career I grew up dreaming to pursue but as the years passed, I realised I wanted to do something more challenging and a bit more lucrative, which is why I studied accounting.
MBC Our People Our Pride awarded you recently as one of the 10 people who have quietly touched the lives of many. How did you react when you heard about the award?
Quite honestly, I could not believe it when I got the message. As I left Mzuzu for Blantyre, I still did not believe that I was an achiever or deserving that title. It was only until I received the award that I realised that my work, which I have been undermining all along, is worthy of recognition.
What does this award mean to you?
To me, it defines the power of the Lord. Composing songs was something I did as a hobby, I never thought it would earn me something one day. I never went public about my talent, yet people were able to identify and appreciate my talent, which I attribute to GodÃ¢â‚¬Ëœs power and grace.
Do you mean this is your first award?
Actually, this is my second award. I was first awarded for the same talent during the Malumulo Centenary Celebrations at Malamulo in Thyolo. I was the only living honorary recipient of the award out of the seven recipients.
You were awarded for composing over 300 songs. Are you a musician by profession?
No, I did not attain any training in music but my talent transpired through my active participation in choir activities during my youth and the encouragement I got from my late husband.
I trace my talent from the early months of 1976 (I was 48 years-old then) when I was at Ndirande SDA Church in Blantyre. I was very active in women and choir programmes at the church. I led my fellows in music and as a result, started composing these songs.
Passion and faith in God is what turned the hobby into a fully recognised talent. A lot of women started showing interest in my songs during regional meetings. My first song, Sodom ndi Gomora anthu anatha, was a big hit.
Not long after I composed it, people all over the country started using it. Despite the fact that I attended a few national meetings, Christians in Zambia and Zimbabwe also liked some of my songs and started using them.
Composing 300 songs is not a joke, how did you manage this?
300 is just a round figure but I have done more than this and I am still composing in my old age. It might sound like a tough task but to me, it is something spiritual. Each time I am lonely, I compose two to three songs and when I am satisfied, I record them.
All your songs are biblical. Should we assume that you are always reading Bible to search for words to use in your coompositions?
Not really, my talent is different from many other musicians. While others pick up a message and then identify a tune to go along with it, I first come up with a tune then go through the Bible and choose the message to go along with it. To avoid forgetting, I keep the tunes in a voice recorder.
You are an SDA member, does this mean all your songs are meant for your church?
At first it looked like that because the flow of my tunes resembleÃ‚Â SDA style but because all churches use the same Bible, the messages in my songs are relevant to the life of any human being, which is why other churches began to use some of my songs during church and funeralÃ‚Â ceremonies.
Today, you can get my songs in all churches. What is so motivating to me is that some of my songs have won the hearts of many people even outside the country. In Zimbabwe, Zambia and some parts of Tanzania they use my songs in churches, celebrations and at funerals.
You said you store your music in a voice recorder, how do these people access your songs?
I only record new songs and after thorough editing, I type and print them. I have a 150 paged bound copy where I keep all my music.
Do you distribute these songs to churches?
No! I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t. The problem is that some gospel musicians have been copying my music and claim it is theirs. I just keep my music and share it with those that invite me. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t compose my songs for money and I have taken them everywhere across the country for free and so seeing someone making money out of them pains me.
Have you done anything to protect your songs?
That is what I want to do with the prize money. I want to go to studio to record the songs and seek protection from the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma)Ã‚Â Ã‚Â
When are you planning to retire from composing these songs?
I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t believe I will retire from composing songs. My retirement depends on my brain; when it is tired then I will retire but I believe it will be due to death.
Any last words?
I am grateful that our nation thinks I am an achiever. I also thank MBC for awarding me as well as the State President and the First Lady for congratulating me and gracing the awards. Now, I am eyeing my last award, everlasting life, which will come from God.