n and around 1999, a gospel music revolution started at Ndirande Anglican Parish in Blantyre. This charge was the result of the emergence of the church choral group Ndirande Anglican Voices.
By then, there were few if any such groups which used modern instruments in their singing. A majority were basically falling in the a cappella category. So you can understand the feeling of freshness they stormed on the scene with.
It was a deviation from the norm. The group represented the other side of gospel music that people used to see on television from South African choral groups. There was nothing of that sort closer home. So here was the Ndirande Anglican Voices trying to usher in a new understanding of gospel music.
Their arrival on the music scene was as large as life itself. Their debut album Ndasiyina was a cracker. I remember then, people’s obsession was still with secular music. When you looked at the local music charts, it was mainly dominated by secular compositions.
When you listened to the regular programmes, the music which was featuring highly was secular. But the voices from Ndirande had other thoughts. They were determined to change the world order.
From the Ndasayina album emerged hits which competed with other types of music for the music charts. The title track itself was almost an anthem which did not escape the lips of every music enthusiast in the country. Indeed, Ndirande Anglican Voices had arrived.
The impeccable vocal abilities of the group’s leader Denis Kalimbe was a source of inspiration to the large number of troops behind him. When he stood in front of them, everyone knew what part he/she was supposed to play.
Suddenly, everybody took notice of the creative force they had become. As is always the case, when someone is busy working on his success story, pretenders and wannabes always sprout. In no time there were countless gospel outfits almost molded in that nature who made their best efforts to at least sound like Ndirande Anglican Voices.
It really became confusing at some point as the industry had a number of such copycats. You needed a sharp ear to strike out the chaff from the real McCoy. But the source of their inspiration was different.
As time went by, the copycats one by one went into oblivion. They went on a journey which they were never to come back. Natural forces weaned them out of the game.
The Ndirande-based group is this year celebrating their 20th anniversary as they continue to spread the gospel through their wonderful compositions which are symbolised in their six successful albums to date.
Theirs is a story which cannot be ignored if posterity is to judge us fairly. The influence they have had on the local music gospel landscape is too huge to let pass by. With such longevity in the business, it would not be an exaggeration to say they have defined an era.
Their music has remained a blessing to the ears. And as time has passed, the membership of the group has remained fluid as others have left, others joining and leaving again. But the core structure and identity of the group has been maintained. That’s no mean thing.
As they step into their 21st year as a group, we are only hoping for more melodious sounds from Ndirande. It is our belief that they will continue to shine and set an example in their compositions as they exalt God’s word.