Vabati VaJehova’s bittersweet story

Tatenda Chipungudzanye

THEIRS has been a bittersweet journey clouded by tragedy, hope and joyful moments. An incarnation of the movie series “Final Destination”.

Their passion for choral music in rural Mhondoro saw them hogging limelight in no time for both good and sad reasons. The good reason why Vabati VaJehova started recording their music was because they wanted to raise school fees for their orphaned colleagues. The sad one is centred on a tragedy that claimed 26 of their Vimbiso YaJehova churchmates who perished in an accident at Chivake Bridge.

The bittersweet story is centred on deaths as well as good music.

At the peak of their music career three key band members all brothers from Magaya family died. This almost brought the band to a demise.

Richard Magaya who now leads the band says they were there to ensure Vabati VaJehova’s dream of preaching through music lives on. Richard says he was still going to school when the band was formed two decades ago and he would, like any other villagers in Mhondoro, see his brothers perform in church as well as at functions in the “roots” and later in Harare where they became the first apostolic choral group to do well.

“I saw my brothers sing and would always follow them as they performed at shows.”

“In the rural areas we used to attend Ruwadzano Pamuchinjikwa Apostolic Church, but on coming to Harare the church was not there.

“It was at Vimbiso YaJehova that my brother took music seriously with the help on Dunken Jaramba who was the founder of the church.

“This is where Wiseman and my other brothers met Samson Tawengwa at a church service in Nyabira who was a very good singer.

“They then continued using the name Vabati VaJehova,” said Richard.


Misfortune has been a shadow to the group. Their marriage to misfortune is well documented.

Tragedy then struck.

Some 26 members of the church perished at Chivake Bridge when they were coming from prayers. The tragedy saw the band recording music to assist the families left by some of the church members.

“Jaramba helped the band to record music starting with Mweya Mutsvene WaMwari in 1999.

“The proceeds would be used to assist the families mentioned earlier while band members eked out a living from other means,” said Richard.

Richard said after Chivake disaster, band members who were not part of the trip began perishing.

Fate. Is it?

From the survivors it all started with Wiseman’s death at Howard Mission Hospital when all hope seemed lost. Wiseman Magaya had led the group with his sonorous voice as well as verve on and off stage.

The group tried to move on but Timothy died a painful death a few years later. He had gone to look for firewood for use at church and while he was sleeping by the roadside near Rossarum (Nyanyiwa Enterprises) along Harare-Chivhu Road he woke up in his sleep and was run over by a haulage truck. Timothy Magaya contributed quite a number of songs in their early albums before his tragic death.

Such was the misfortune that it could have been explained in their song Tirimo Munzira sung by Khumbulani on their DVD — The Package. Khumbulani then died a few years later leaving the group in limbo. Tirimo Munzira seemingly prophesied his death.

The eldest brother in the group Mamrod then left for South Africa.

The song Tsaona by the late Mukoma Dhai (Daiton Somanje) quickly comes to The Trekker’s mind. The band was heading for closure. The band was faced by its demise but the other brothers took it upon themselves to revive it and they carried from where their elder brothers left.


Richard said the group now has 16 albums since its formation in 1999.

The first album Mweya Mutsvene WaMwari registered a new genre on local radio that was to set a precedent for other apostolic and Zionist groups to follow.

Richard says their next album was to be Wauya Mucheki followed Mabasa Avapostori, Ndinobva Kwamuri which, after release, saw the group shaking in 2002 with Samson Tawengwa leaving the group together with Mai Chibgape to form Vabati VeVhangeri. Samson is famed for the songs Vagoni Zvavo, Mweya Wangu and Mutumwa Akauya that became instant hits in the formative years of Vabati VaJehova.

After the split that threatened to tear Vabati VaJehova apart, the group aboard the younger Magayas in Richard, Nelson, George and Prince Izale who are still steering the group forward.

“There were money problems in the group. Vabati VaJehova was formed to help the needy starting with families of our church members who perished at Chivake. But others saw it as a money spinning entity resulting in the split,” said Richard. After the rebuilding exercise, the group went on to release another album Zuva Rokupera. It was then that Tawengwa requested to rejoin the group and Vabati VaJehova were split over taking him back.  “It needed the brain of Wiseman to tell others that the group was there to champion God’s work and then a consensus was reached to take him back,” Richard said.

The group was to release another chart buster Chiriko Chikomo which was followed by Zivai Nemoyo while Tirimo Munzira became an instant hit in 2007.

The album did well such that the group released a video called The Package that same year reflecting on their musical journey from inception of the group.

Just after the release of the DVD album — the pillar of the group Wiseman died.

Mira Naye Jesu — a tribute to Wiseman was released the following year which was followed by Ndivanze Muponesi. It was also a time when Timothy died and Tawengwa left the group AGAIN.

The group then released Jesu Ibako being led by Khumbulani and on their 11th album called Denga Idzva, Khumbulani died.

The other albums to follow were Pindirai, Zororo Kumatenga, Ndimi Baba and Tivavarire Denga completing 16 albums.


In their bittersweet trajectory, the group has vowed to continue soldiering on.  “Fans have been with us.

“We managed to pick up the pieces and we are now doing very well.

“Our woes strengthened us and we will soldier on no matter what,” says Richard.

Richard said they were taking care of their late brothers’ children.

He said the DVD for Tivavarire Denga would be out in August.

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