While Ndirande Township in Blantyre has mostly been popular for the wrong reasons, there are still others in the township who have proved that it is possible to stand out in a crowd and propagate faith.
One such group of people who have become the pride of the township is Ndirande Anglican Voices.
The group is a household name in Malawian gospel music circles. Despite being a church choir based at Ndirande Anglican Church, the group is loved by many due to its soul-touching compositions.
It is perhaps the only group that has consistently attracted crowds at its shows and continues to sell albums like hot cakes.
The group has got five albums to its credit and has survived the test of time in the gospel music arena.
Ndirande Anglican Voices first released Ndasaina in 2001, which saw the group winning three awards during Entertainers of the Year in 2002; best gospel album, best gospel group and the song of the year, Ndasaina.
Songs in the album, which sold up to 270 000 copies, were written by Denis Kalimbe, the group’s music director, George Nkhoma, the group’s deputy music director and Edson Galawanda.
“The group later released Tiyeni Tonse in 2004 which was also a success and with proceeds from the album [150 000 copies], the group was able to purchase its first minibus which unfortunately had an accident barely three months after it was bought,” said Kalimbe.
After Tiyeni Tonse, the group released Mulungu Amatikondera in 2006 and the songs were written by Kalimbe and Nkhoma before taking a long break that saw the group coming back in 2010 with a fourth album, Ndasamba M’manja.
Kalimbe said: “The group took such a long break as there were a lot of setbacks due to the piracy that was at peak during that time and we had to face the reality that things will never be the same again.”
Interestingly, the group’s first four albums were recorded by Joseph Tembo at Rhem Studios and each consisted of 10 tracks.
Their fifth album is a 2013 production with 10 tracks again titled Zimandikwanira and was recorded at Divine Works by Dick Kankhunda and Kalimbe and will be launched in August in Lilongwe.
Zimandikwanira has songs such as Ndimamva Kukoma, which is currently enjoying massive airplay, Msanditengere Kokandiyesa and Tiwakonde.
Songs in the recent album were also written by Kalimbe.
Though releasing its debut album in 2001, the group traces its history to the 1980s when it was known as Ndirande Anglican Church Choir and had 36 members.
According to Kalimbe, the choir rebranded to Ndirande Anglican Voices in 1998 when it migrated from the Accapella format to the use of equipment and currently has 18 members, six of whom are ladies.
With more than 20 years of its existence, the group has achieved a number of milestones and one of them was going to United Kingdom (UK) for the Birmingham Diocese Centenary celebrations in 2005.
“The group had a lot of fun in Birmingham. While in the UK, we performed in colleges and churches raising awareness to the youths.
“We also interacted with a lot of people. We had time to sing before the Queen and at one of the biggest churches in the world, St Paul’s Anglican Church. We don’t know if such a time will ever come gain,” he said.
Kalimbe bemoaned the demise of many choirs in the country.
He blamed most churches management system which enables authorities to regard the youth as leaders of tomorrow.
“Ndirande Anglican Voices is still thriving because of the leaderships that we have had at our church. Priests have understood that though we are a church choir, we should have our independence and be allowed to do our own activities,” he said.
On why the group does not like to stage musical performances, Kalimbe said the group still regards itself as a church choir.
“As a church group, we would not want to be too commercial, but we have plans to have shows once in a while as it provides a chance to interact with our fans,” he said.