Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Heritage, JOY concert wows Westwood crowd

The call for encores from a rapt audience was still ringing as Paddy Mukando, the MC, told the audience: “It is enough, let’s go home.”

Saturday April 11th will live long in the memories of those who came to Westwood International School for the gospel music concert featuring Zambia’s Heritage Brothers, JOY from South Africa and Botswana’s Maureen Mogojwa.

“This concert was more than entertainment; it was spiritually uplifting,” said Thelma Mpeta, who was among those who made up the crowd. “I have not seen a concert at this level since I came to Botswana.”

Mike Madumo, an up-and-coming musician from ZCC, said the event was brilliantly staged. “I have not heard such fine acapella at a concert. All the musicians here were excellent.”

For those who have followed the Heritage Brothers, it was an occasion to witness another chapter in the group’s evolution. Five of them flew in from Lusaka, essentially a quintet, including two second tenors.

“The idea is to have two people for every part so that there is always a vocal quartet even if one of us is unavailable,” said Mukando, whose deep, rich bass tones had some in the audience shrieking.

Running to nearly three hours, the concert saw Heritage past and present line up on stage. On the songs ‘Swing down sweet chariot’ and ‘When the saints go marching in’ all seven ÔÇô including concert organiser, Alex Mwesa, and Brian Lupiya, who came in from South Africa ÔÇô took to the stage.

A music concert is as good as the acoustics on offer, the fluency of the MC and quality of the musicians. On all points, this one scored highly with the audience.

Mukando is an accomplished MC who thinks on his feet and has witty one-liners that both amuse and entertain without being irreverent. An award-winning radio newscaster, he has honed his skills on Lusaka’s Radio Phoenix. His emceeing and the versatility of his role as the group’s bass singer were unsurprisingly masterful.

The vintage Heritage blend was evident: Alwyn Joloma’s smooth first tenor, effortlessly transitioning into a falsetto on the very high notes; the smooth vocal deliveries of the two second tenors, Blessed and Nsale; the sustained presence of Chimuka Musokotwane on baritone; the rich deep tones of Mukando’s bass, which rang with an occasional vibrato that drew ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the audience.

Maureen Mogojwa showed she was in her element as an accomplished vocalist. Accompanied on keyboard by a fluent improvisation from Mwesa, she softly ministered to the audience before a fine delivery of ‘Ke ntse dinaong tsa Jesu’ (‘Sitting at the feet of Jesus’).

When the Heritage Brothers sang a cover of the American Heritage Quartet’s ‘Swing down sweet chariot’, Nalumino Mundia, who teaches music at Westwood International School, accompanied them on keyboard, nimble fingers deftly moving over the keys. Mundia played keyboard for the same song for their 2002 recording of the album ‘Beaulah Land’.

JOY, a trio of siblings comprising two fraternal twins and their young sister, brought some in the crowd to their feet with a moving performance. This young trio is talented and versatile. Young Brian Lupiya Jr’s adequate keyboard skills and tenor harmony was a soothing accompaniment to his two sisters, Joy the altor and the youngest Hana, the soprano.

Their cover of the song ‘My Jesus I Love Thee’ by American contemporary Christian quartet Avalon drew audible sighs. A satisfactory rendition.

As the night wore on, the audience increasingly warmed up to JOY, whose name is an acronym (Jesus, Others, Yourself). When Brian Lupiya joined his three children on stage at the audience’s insistence, it marked the height of a night of sustained, soulful and uplifting music.

“You could almost imagine the heavens opening,” said Thelma Mpeta in describing the night’s experience.

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