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20 years of voices

From the Township of Ndirande in Blantyre comes a group that has continued to entertain the country with its gospel vibes – Ndirande Anglican Voices is the name.

Their rise to stardom in the country’s gospel music arena has not been that easy as they have had to negotiate a number of challenges but the year 2020 is special to them as they have clocked 20 years.

The year 2020 seems to be special to many artists as they look back to where they have come from to be where they are today.

For instance, Soldier Lucius Banda, who is also among the most successful musicians in the country, said in December last year that 2020 is the year he was celebrating his 50th birthday and that he had been in marriage for close to 25 years.

For Ndirande Anglican Voices, their voices have been on the ground ministering the word of God for 20 years and the group has remained intact throughout.

“It’s not easy but we are thankful to God that we have remained dedicated to minister His word through music. This is why to thank God for what He has done, we are celebrating this 20th anniversary with a number of activities,” the group’s lead singer Dennis Kalimbe said.

He said the celebration will be held in all the four cities in the country as well as eight districts.

“Blantyre being the city where we are based, we have also made it that we should donate part of the proceeds to Ndirande Health Centre. Ndirande as well as Blantyre has served us well for the past 20 years,” Kalimbe said.

With his powerful and exciting voice, Kalimbe, has excited a lot of people and he has been instrumental in driving the group whose strength has been the voices.

In singing, the voice is key although instruments are also part of that family but where the voice is not good then the song cannot manage to move the masses.

“We would have been having celebrations every year but we thought it wise that we should have a special one after hitting 20 years and also managing to produce six albums and that is what we have done now. We have six albums and these albums have managed to change the lives of people,” Kalimbe said.

With a number of gospel groups then, Ndirande Anglican Voices came from nowhere to make its own name and within a short space people were talking about them and their songs.

“The group started with 28 members but now we are 18. This is not to say that we have not been intact, we have remained together and prayed for each other but with time some of the members have moved on to other places whereas others have got married,” Kalimbe said.

For those, who have followed the group then they would manage to stand on top of the mountain and name all their six albums – these are Ndasayina, Tiyeni Tonse, Mulungu Amatikondera, Ndasamba M’manja, Zimandikwanila and Namondwe Tonthola.

He said all the six albums have messages that link each other and that God has been the driver in all their compositions.

“All the albums are great if one may ask me, we have put all our powers in each and every album and probably what would be the difference is that the latest albums have been produced by another producer. The first four albums we recorded with the late Joseph Tembo,” Kalimbe said.

He however describes Mulungu Amandikondera album as the best in that he made more sales on the market in both tapes and CDs.

But despite Mulungu Amandikondera being rated the best by Kalimbe, their debut album Ndasayina brought them to the limelight as the song went on to be voted Entertainers of Entertainers in 2000.

“It was a special moment especially in that this was our debut album, it showed that we had taken a serious course. But this was only our first album and over the years we have continued to improve,” he said.

Apart from Kalimbe, who was there when the group was starting, the other oldest members in Ndirande Anglican Voices are Christopher Malani, Symon Lufani, Maria Kamanga, George Nkhoma and Eluby Kaunda.

“We have seen God doing wonders for us and if not for Him, we could not have been here and so I can rightly say it here that the secret to our success and also being together has been trusting God and being prayerful by knowing who we serve,” Kalimbe said.

He said their success story was that when they were starting their musical ministry, they did not have a studio but now they have their own studio.

“We have our own recording studio and we have not stopped there as we are now going towards buying our own full musical equipment,” the lead singer said.

Kalimbe said as a group they have matured with time and that their performances have improved.

“We are more mature in singing and again, some members in the group can read music through notation,” he said.

There used to be a time when Ndirande Anglican Voices faced criticism from some quarters, who felt the group had lost direction and instead had started copying gospel music from South African groups.

“People used to say that because at that time we did not have more gospel groups on the ground and that time many groups were following same patterns but without necessary copying from each other. We are different as a group and that is why we are Ndirande Anglican Voices and so we will always strive to give out what people expect from us as Ndirande Anglican Voices,” Kalimbe said.

Over the years, Ndirande Anglican Voices has also faced criticism from some gospel lovers for compromising on their stage work.

“This is true, we slackened a bit as far as our stage performances were concerned but now things are in the right track. You talk of voices it’s all perfect let alone stage work and we will keep on improving for we know we still have more room for improvement,” Kalimbe said.

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