HARARE – Tomorrow night will without doubt be Zimbabwe gospel music legend Mechanic Manyeruke’s finest moment.
In a first for Zimbabwean gospel music, a tribute concert will be held at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) in celebration of Manyeruke’s four decades at the apex of the music genre.
If the 71-year-old Manyeruke is honoured tomorrow night as arranged, he will deservedly assume a unique and special status currently enjoyed by one Zimbabwean artiste, Oliver Mtukudzi.
Mtukudzi is the only Zimbabwean artiste who has had a tribute concert organised for him while he is still alive. Most people in the gospel music fraternity and the Zimbabwean arts sector in general, concur that Manyeruke has earned his spurs.
Though some followers of Zimbabwean music argue that the late Jordan Chataika, who reportedly started his music career in 1959, also deserves to be honoured, even posthumously, not many can deny that the ever-smiling Manyeruke is an ironclad choice for a special honour.
When Manyeruke, along with Chataika and his sisters Edna and Molly ventured into gospel music, it was not the fashionable genre it has become today. Manyeruke, the late Chataika and their ilk were shunned by recording companies who regarded gospel music as commercially unviable.
Despite being given a cold shoulder by profit-minded recording companies, the gospel pioneers persevered spurred on by their Christian convictions and because they did not pursue careers in music for money.
There is no music type that demands a more exemplary lifestyle than gospel music.
Christians and music fans alike expect gospel musicians to lead lifestyles that reflect the gospel they preach in their songs.
While several gospel musicians have been found wanting in this respect, Manyeruke has remained a real role model for over four decades.
The down-to-earth granddad of Zimbabwean gospel music has essentially stayed away from scandals which is not a walk in the park in this era of materialism and greediness.
It is not surprising that the humble gospel star’s tribute concert has attracted the interest of even secular musicians.
While the organisers had initially planned to feature only gospel musicians in the tribute concert, indications are that this position could be reviewed due to pressure from secular musicians who are also keen to take part.
Such is the respect Manyeruke commands across the music divide.
The organisers of the Baba Manyeruke Tribute Concert set for tomorrow and the Baba Manyeruke Tribute Dinner set for December 19 should be applauded for going out of their way to ensure the 71-year old gospel veteran’s moment of honour is not just an ordinary event.
It is particularly pleasing that the veteran gospel star will be presented with a pricey Jaguar XF — a car that is a rarity on the streets of Harare.
This is a clear demonstration of the organisers’ determination to send a loud and clear statement to Zimbabwe that gospel music honours its heroes not only in style but while they are still alive.