She doesn’t look like someone who often has hectic workdays plus rehearsal times that often stretch to late at night. In fact she’s fresh-faced and practically vibrant with energy as she welcomes us to her apartment where we’re catching up with her today. “I thought you guys are no longer “, she says flashing a cute smile.
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Abigail had to knock off early to accommodate us to have an interview with her, her diary is always planned well ahead from the moment she opens her eyes at 4am, until lights out at 12am depending also on her rehearsal and church movements. Her daily shifts sounds exhausting but Abie makes every second count. Everything she does is booked way in advance as she juggles a day job and a demanding musical life at the same time.
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Born an Evangelist daughter, I literally grew up in church. At a tender age I was introduced to the praise and worship team and from then on the exposure of singing in-front of huge crowds grew. Each time I sang people would come out to worship with us in their numbers during that time I was not sure of what was happening in my life, but when I look back now I appreciate it as it has made who I am today. She says as we start our conversation about her amazing musical journey.
Who is Abigail Mwembe?
Abigail Mwembe was born in a family of five in Dete Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe and hails from Syansundu in Binga. I am Christian and I did my Primary school in Dete and my High school at Regina Mundi. I did secretarial studies with New Visions Technical College and went to Bulawayo Polytechnic for a Diploma in Business Management.
Take us through your music journey?
I started singing in church when I was 5 years old that I remember vividly I joined the praise and worship team that’s when I got the exposure to sing in front of huge crowds. My father was an evangelist those days crusades were done in open air spaces, and gospel music played a part in inviting people to join. It is during such moments that my passion grew and I got my strength as whenever I sang people will come out in their numbers.
When it was happening I never knew what was happening but now I appreciate as it has made who I am today.
Staying In Bulawayo
When I came to Bulawayo I wanted to further my education, I didn’t know it will turn up to be my base. A year after relocation to the city I met Sonny Phiri he was the first person to take my music talent into a profession he had a stable called House of David Promotions, we did our first live recording at City Hall and I did two songs featuring Fungisai Zvakavapano – Mashavave, Revonia Khumalo among other top gospel artiste.
I will forever salute him because he gave me a big live platform to record, it was my first time to also record. After that i discovered myself and have never stopped making music.
Tell us about your first album which got rejected how did you take the news?
In 2005 my first album Makabongwe was done in Ndebele with only one Tonga song got rejected by Gramma Records as they said they couldn’t market Ndebele songs. The 8 track album was recorded in Harare and all sleeves and cassettes were already done the contract was meant to be for 5 years.
When all was done one of the directors said it was best to do the album in Shona. In 2007 the album was redone, but to my surprise they felt someone from Harare was going to give them more sales than someone from Matebeleland and with that the album never saw the light. I wanted to quit as I was heartbroken.
Skyz Metro FM Music Award (2017); How has that shaped your career in the industry?
After so many severe heartbreaks I did not see that one coming. First the album which got me the nomination was not received well locally, it was before Skyz Metro Fm got its broadcasting licence which then forced me to take my music to South Africa and i got fair airplay that side. Then the birth of Esabantu I managed to get massive airplay particularly my Tonga songs. The victory made me relevant in the music industry that is one thing I cannot forget. Currently am working on my songs for my next project that I will be recording live in October, that award inspired me to work on this album.
What is your challenge in being a minority language singer in Zimbabwe?
The biggest challenge you have is to work extra hard, you are singing what most people don’t even understand it’s just a foreign language to them and you suppose to convince them to listen.
Your music has to capture they hearts so they can ask you the meaning later. You have to be convincing in the ministry so people buy into what they don’t understand. In Zimbabwe generally when you talk about talent from Matebeleland regions what comes to mind is Ndebele, but they is more which means we still have to work hard.
What inspired Abigail to take up the mic and decide to sing gospel music in Tonga?
I believe when he was creating us he had a purpose for each and every one of us, him choosing that I be Tonga had a reason for that. I picture God listening to music, God hears then seeing in different languages I also feel he is missing something so if I sing in Tonga I feel he is getting the Tonga link.
Once upon a time, I read that you were kicked out of church due to your music career do you mind telling us about the incident?
I was away for four weeks doing shows out of the country and when got back I got a message that the pastor had kicked me out from church, due to my absence. Later he confronted me in the streets of Bulawayo this lead to the story being in the newspapers. I cried on the day because they was commotion and drama. I left the church and joined a new ministry, I felt humiliated and I took a break on my music life. Although now we are in talking terms with the pastor.
Many gospel musicians are using pushcarts to market they songs what’s your take on this trend?
It depends on time, I have limited time to use other methods of selling my music because I will be at work. It is working for other musicians and I believe one can make more sales than anyone if that method is implemented. With this economy and with no record bars I think it’s a way to go. As you can easily access people, we see artiste being popular on social media but the value of what we see on digital media in reality doesn’t match. We need to stop relying on digital media for now as our economy hasn’t reached that stage we need to go all out were our people are and hustle.
You have a day job and not full time on music doesn’t that hinder your progress?
To a certain extent full time musicians can be found everywhere, but for me it can’t I have to deal with what pays the bills first. The job helps me with the money for doing my albums and all, gospel music hasn’t got that massive financial support than other genres in Zimbabwe,even co-operates are not keen on investing on it so i have to have and do music part time. My progress isn’t hindered I have to plan on my things in advance.
Take us through your Creative process.
In so many different ways at times I read a bible then Booom I have a song in my head at times during meditation an idea pops up, once I have had dreams writing songs and new song ideas have come to play. Above all situations drive me to write certain songs.
Your Career highlights?
Being interviewed by a South African radio channel after my songs have made it to One Gospel, It was simple amazing the interview was suppose to be for 30 minutes but it later turned to be a I hour 30 minutes interview as people kept calling and wanting to know more. More of my songs got played that day, i felt at home that I will never forget.
Tasha Cobbs from America.
One thing you can’t live without?
PARTING SHOT : What would you say to young women who would love to be like you?
It always seems impossible till its done take one step at a time don’t be discouragement. Discouragement will always look so real,always know its not the end. You can take a break but never give up but don’t stop.
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