Jojo: Preaching through music
by Mabvuto Phiri: Friday March 10, 2006 [04:00]

RHUMBA music is synonymous with such big names as Franco and Tabu Ley of the old age and currently Kofi Olomide and groups like Wenge Musica.

Rhumba is also associated with nightclubs, partying and 'boozing'. In the same steps Joseph Mwangaza popularly known as Jojo Mwangaza is a musician that has changed the face of local gospel music by incorporating rhumba beats into his gospel tracks.

Mwangaza, born in former Zaire and now Democratic Republic of Congo has carried on the traditions of many Congolese musicians that have spread rhumba music far beyond the Congo borders. Born 29 years ago in the border of Kasenga, Mwangaza describes himself as a citizen of two nations.

"Kasenga in the Congo is very close to Mansa. People there closely interact with people in Zambia and I found myself living between Zambia and Congo as I could spend time in one country and then another," Mwangaza said.

He explained that in the area, people could simply make a choice of which nationality they wanted to be. Mwangaza rejects suggestions that rhumba music is worldly, separated and has nothing to do with gospel music.

"Rhumba music is a beat like any other. It's a type of music like reggae, hip hop or Kalindula. What I do as a gospel singer is take any sweet and anointed beat to sing to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ," MWangaza said.

HE explained that gospel music suits in any beat and is only a conveyor of the word of God to the people and also praises to God.

Mwangaza said he believes that he is a pastor who ministers to the people through his music and says it is important that he sings in a language that his audience understands.

Born on July 7 in the Democratic of Congo, Mwangaza describes himself as his mother's prayer answered.

"My mum had prayed for a child who would serve God and sing for his glory. My parents brought me up in the fear of the Lord, preserving me from the world by telling me about my call and to be attached to Jesus," Mwangaza recalls.

Mwangaza started singing at the tender age of seven while at primary school as part of a choir.

"The anointing upon my voice impacted and connected me to a lot of people. That time I was actually singing at Sunday School. Gospel music has been part of me from the start. i did not play any other type of music and I did not play with any of these groups that perform traditional rhumba music."

Mwangaza recalls that his mother told him that he was a musician even before he himself knew it.

"I was told that I am a musician before i realised I could sing. My mother told me that I had a melody of light in my heart and that whatever melody that comes from my heart would bring light, hope and courage in people's lives. She devoted me to the Lord and gospel music is what I do best," Mwangaza said.

He made his first trip to Zambia at the age of 10 and composed his first song entitled Hope when he was 12 years old and has never looked back since then.

"This song has always given me courage and confidence to never give up."

His singing in church saw him become a praise and worship leader by the age of 14 and it was during this period that his exposure to Zambia increased.
"I found myself making a number of trips to Zambia for workshops and conferences with the Pentecostal Holiness Church. This is the church I still work," Mwangaza said.

He completed his secondary school in 1997 and went for a course in praise and worship with an American Missionary to the Congo. "I did not have any interest to look for any job or do any other kind of work as I already knew what God wanted me to do."

After his praise and worship training, Mwangaza finally moved to Zambia in 1999 and established his Jojo Mwangaza Ministry. He then started working on his first album, Tehilla, then included songs like Moyo Wanga (My Life) which he recorded with Lusaka Systems Studio.

"I released my first album in 2001 called Tehilla which simply means "Singing to the Lord a new song and giving him the highest praise." Moyo Wana, one of the most popular songs on the album received immense air play and helped introduce Mwangaza to the Zambian audience. The song actually lead to a Kora nomination.

"Tehilla introduced a unique approach to gospel music in Zambia and showed that all aspects of music can be incorporated into gospel." In 2003, Mwangaza released his second album called Shabach (Yesu Ni Wa Moyo); an album featuring great tracks like Ishita Yandi Ikesa. However, Mwangaza laments that his second album was not much of a commercial success because it was heavily pirated, reducing the number of sales recorded.

Last year, soon after his marriage to a fellow Congolese, Campbell, Mwangaza released his third album Rejoice, Relax Jehovah Is In Control. This is a Dance and celebrate album, confessing that Jehovah is in control of every situation. The title track led to another Kora nomination.
"I think I'm really doing what the Lord wants me to do: gathering people to His glory and bringing thousands into His Kingdom. Today my ministry is called Jojo Mwangaza Ministry. I preach through the melody of light coming out from my heart.

By God's anointing upon me, He has saved, healed and delivered many through the gift in me. I have managed to minister in many countries, blessing the people in Zambia, Africa and the whole world." Besides Zambia, Mwangaza has performed in Botswana, Zimbabwe, DRC and Swaziland.

"During my performances in Zimbabwe, I also came up with a Shona version of Moyo Wanga as I believe that I should communicate to my audience in a language that they understand."

Mwangaza, who is next week scheduled to release his fourth album entitled 4x4, said he is also planning on working on a project that will have songs in languages from different countries.

On his fourth album, Mwangaza said the title 4x4 refers to the fact that with God everything is possible.

"Some Christians behave like they are small cars that cannot overcome rough terrain. As you know a 4x4 vehicle can pass through all rough conditions and I believe Christians should be like that," said Mwangaza.