Godwin Muzari Arts & Lifestyle Editor
It all started at St Mary’s Apostolic Faith Mission church in Chitungwiza where Charles Charamba met Olivia Maseko.
Although they were attending the same church for some time, music brought them closer and one thing led to the other until they finally tied the knot in 1997.
Theirs is a tale of choir members that secretly admired each other as they went for practice sessions and crusades.
They were both members of a crusade team called Jesus in Action.
Charles had formed the group with their resident pastor Bernard Takawira Mukwaira towards the end of 1993. The young man, then, was the team leader and lead vocalist.
Olivia joined the group in 1995 as a backing vocalist. They started working and touring together.
Charles had turned 24 and church teachings advised him to start praying for a wife. He had to ask God for the best woman with whom he would share the rest of his life.
Olivia was 22, a fair age for a lady to start getting primary lessons about courtship and marriage.
They were both talented singers devoted to spreading the word through music. Even today, they continue spreading the word.
This time they are complementing their music with pulpit work. They recently formed a church called Rooted in Christ Ministries and, in line with their brand Fishers of Men, they are bringing souls to Christ.
The Saturday Herald Lifestyle had a chat with the gospel couple this week and they shared stories about their affair, music, family and church.
Falling in love
Pastor Charamba told the story of his dream as a boy.
“I am always cautious with what I do in life. I do not want to make mistakes and I try to make the best decisions all the time. Before I got married, I always prayed about the woman I wanted God to give me as a wife,” he recalled.
“I was afraid of marrying someone who would ruin my life or make me miserable, so I was specific when I prayed to God. I told God the characteristics that I wanted in a woman with whom I would spend my whole life. I was afraid of disappointment.”
Pastor Charamba said the answer to his prayer came when they started getting along with Mai Charamba as they sang together in Jesus in Action crusade team. He knew God had answered his prayers as he began observing the lady who was slowly taking away his heart.
Mai Charamba said she also saw a future husband in this determined choir leader the moment he started showing interest in her.
“We got to know each other for some time as we did music together. I was also observing his character and I saw him as a responsible man. When he approached me, I already knew the character of the person I was talking to. One thing led to the other and here we are today,” said Mai Charamba.
When Pastor Charamba decided to pursue a solo music path, Mai Charamba became his backing vocalist and that is how they jointly launched their careers.
He released “Tinashe Akatendeka” in 1997 and the debut album caught the attention of gospel music followers. After releasing two albums, he decided to give his wife a chance. He gave her some compositions that she recorded in her debut album titled “Amen” that she did with her fiends Tariro Matongorewa-Muringa and Spiwe Murerwa-Chimuti.
Since then the duo’s music career has been flourishing and they are now regarded as the first family of gospel music.
From Chitungwiza to Gunhill
The couple’s music career began on positive note and they made hits with their first album. After “Tinashe Akatendeka”, Charamba did “Johanne 3:16” in 1998 and “Vhuserere” 2000. The albums solidified his position as one of the top musicians in the gospel sector. It also came with good financial returns, which meant the singer had to upgrade his life.
“Our music did well and we thank God that he blessed our careers in the very first days. We bought a big set of music equipment. It was actually bigger than most sets that were being used by established artistes.
“Unfortunately, we became a target of burglars because of the equipment. We moved from St Mary’s to Zengeza and we faced the same problem. Every time we returned from shows and offloaded the equipment the attention we attracted was overwhelming.
“We realised that we would soon need more assets like vehicles and upgraded music equipment, which would need more space.”
Pastor Charamba said the need for security and more space gave them an idea to look for accommodation in another suburb away from the high-density. He said they were planning to buy a house in areas like Bluffhill and Westgate.
In 2001 when they were working on their album “Exodus”, God blessed them and their exodus from Chitungwiza came in a way they least expected. The album’s name became a prophecy.
Pastor Charamba prays for a congregant at Rooted in Christ Ministries
“It was in 2001, when we were working on our album ‘Exodus’, that a miracle happened. Someone heard that we were looking for a house to buy and offered assistance. We never thought we could get a house in Gunhill.
“Our budget targeted other areas. Through that person’s assistance, we managed to acquire our Gunhill house where we have been staying since then. We saw God’s hand in all this.”
The four-bedroomed house has been extended to include the Fishers of Men Studio where they now record their music. They have been recording music in this fully-equipped studio since they did the album “Pashoko Pangoma”.
There is something striking and outstanding about the Charambas. Their humility tells a lot about the purpose of their music. With all their achievements and fame, they are both down to earth.
Many people in the city centre have been surprised to see Mai Charamba vending. She sells her music at Copacabana and Fourth Street. She takes it as a way of spreading the gospel. She is not ashamed of working for her family and for God.
For some celebrities, fame comes with driving posh cars and wearing designer outfits. The Charambas have a different approach.
“We did not choose a glittering life. We are investing in other things that will make a bright future for our children. There is nothing wrong with driving posh cars. There are facets of showbiz that call for such assets, but we just chose a different route. We are not saying we will never drive posh cars. It is just a decision we have made, for now, to focus on other investments.”
Although the Charambas could not disclose their investments, they confirmed that they have a farm in Goromonzi where they mainly specialise in livestock.
“We go there once every week. We have cattle and poultry projects. We are also starting to keep Boer goats and we do a bit of crop farming.”
While many would be expecting the Charambas to cruise in latest car models, the family chooses to drive ordinary cars. They have a Nissan Teana, Toyota Estima, Toyota Hiace and Toyota Dyna.
At home Mai Charamba often does household chores when her schedule permits. She is a tailor and sometimes makes her stage outfits at home.
The Charambas were blessed with five children. They have daughters namely Shalom (21), Eternity (17) and Tagamuchira (13) and two boys, Timikudze (10) and Aveneni (8)
Mai Charamba with her children
Rooted in Christ Ministries
The Charambas founded the church in October last year when they left Apostolic Faith Mission where they had ministered as pastors for two decades.
Pastor Charamba once led an AFM assembly for some years before he quit to pursue music studies.
However, they remained pastors in the church doing other pastoral roles.
Pastor Charamba completed his first studies in Theology in 2000 and went on to take other courses in the field. Mai Charamba completed her Theology studies in 2004.
The Rooted in Christ Ministries leader says God had been speaking to him about starting a new revival for many years.
They announced the formation of the church in October last year and started with services at Zimbabwe College of Music. The place became small for their congregants and they moved to Ambassador Hotel where they had services for some weeks before relocating to David Livingstone School where they are now based.
Pastor Charamba said they are not doing music performances at church at the moment because they want to separate music fans from congregants.
“Things might change in future, but at the moment we are focusing on having those people that come for the word not music. It is not bad to have music fans coming to our church.
At the moment we just want to make that demarcation.
“God spoke to me about this revival some years ago and it took a certain environment for things to come to pass. God told me great things about this revival.”
Although increased numbers have forced them to change venues, the Charambas say they are not worried about counting heads.
“There is an obsession with numbers in some churches today. We are not taking that approach. We are ‘fishers of men’ and we want to take people to Christ as they come. We are not in a rush. Like real fishermen, we are patient and we will let God lead the way.”