Johannesburg - The winter and summer seasons of our lives deserve our worship equally, says gospel movement We Will Worship, who welcomed the month of August with a weekend-long live recording of their fourth studio album at the SABC.
We Will Worship has a distinct tone and they sing in all the languages of South Africa, refusing to fit into the status quo of what’s expected of a gospel group.
They encourage authenticity in the walk with Christ, and have always been unapologetic about their love and commitment to their faith. With gospel becoming more relatable to young South Africans, We Will Worship is intentional about the use of the 11 official languages, singing songs in isiZulu, Xitsonga, Sesotho, Afrikaans, Tshivenda and isiXhosa, to name but a few.
Accompanied by their growing number of followers, the young group of worshippers braved the winter cold by gathering at the SABC studios two weeks ago. Audience members came in their numbers, filling up the SABC auditorium. The evening began with a few of the group’s earlier songs, such as Malibongwe (let His name be praised) a song from the group’s first Metro award winning album, and Yahweh (a form of the Hebrew name of God used in the Bible). Group founder Langa Mbonambi began the session with a scripture reading of John 15:16 where Jesus says: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”
The group took the audience through songs and scripture references that offer solace when going through a winter season. Between the singing, group members shared personal experiences that inspired the writing of a particular song and how their faith carried them through the seasons of life.
Mbonambi shared a testimony about difficulties he has faced over the past year and a half. His inability to sleep developed into a reliance on sleeping pills. He shared how, through the help of God, he was able to overcome his challenge, and is now off the pills and slowly getting into a routine of healthier sleep patterns.
The evening became more vibrant as the group came out in floral-print clothes to present their summer edition. There was a poetry-and-rap session and Pastor Mahlatse Winston Mashuaa read a poem titled I Saw a River:
“ … I saw a mighty river flowing with the spirit of ubuntu, which sprang forth a cry of validation rhyming with the song of Shosholoza. A river with an African essence that quenches the spiritual thirst of the amarula and the kudu. That river with a touch of Mageba and a tinge of Madiba which sweeps across the land with a declaration of victory when dust turns demonic, shouting ‘amandla’ in a time of famine that seeks to dismantle the strongholds of dear masakhane. A river that begins with a basic Hakuna Matata, then moves on with a flow of cultural inspiration that reaches for abantwana baseMzansi, chorusing with a courageous enlightenment of ismoko and ending on a delightful note of ndo livhuwa, ngiyabonga …”
The poem, close to the end of the performance, lit up the whole room in great hope for what could become of the country and the continent.
#Trending caught up with Mbonambi to ask him about the group
#T: How did We Will Worship start?
Mbonambi: The concept of We Will Worship started in 2006 when I was in my final year of Bcom Marketing at the University of Joburg. At that time in the church we were in -- it was quite a multicultural church -- we sang a lot of songs from the US, like Hillsong's. When we came to South African music we would sing a lot of old-school songs. I was like 'tjo guys, we need contemporary African songs!' We just weren't finding anything out there representing us as young people from the campus. So we thought, 'why not write songs and see what God does with that?' All these other songs we were singing were stories about what God is doing in that particular location [the US] -- so let's write about what God is doing here. I got guys from Wits and UJ [University of Johannesburg] together, and we started this event called We Will Worship, doing our new songs. It was well received, but two months later people had forgotten the songs! We thought that actually what we need to do is record what we do so people can walk away with the experience. It took me three years to find funders for the recording of the first album in 2011, The Movement Begins. For the first two years we sent out emails and proposals, painting out this vision, that we have something here that will shift culture in this country and this continent.
#T: Why a movement instead of a band?
Mbonambi: A band is a static group of people, and we wanted to move away from people seeing it revolving around individuals or a group of people. We Will Worship is not about building people but rather about building a ministry. In any kind of movement, the strength lies with the people who take the movement further than those who started it.
#T: Tell us about your song process.
Mbonambi: All the songs we sing come from our journeys with the Lord. One of the things we are big on is community. We are people who believe in the church and therefore believe in the people -- the church isn't the building, but the people. When we get together every Tuesday we rehearse, but before that we have a meal together and spend an hour chatting and praying and celebrating what is happening in our individual lives. We believe you are a person before the music, you are a child of God before you have a great voice. And so through that we get to hear what God is doing in our lives and that's how the songs come about. It's our diversity we see as strength and it allows our music to be diverse. We don't sit and think 'yoh lets try to be diverse!' What you hear is an overflow of who we are.
#T: How do you choose your collaborations?
Mbonambi: We are mindful and prayerful about who we partner with and how we do it. With Khaya Mthethwa on our third album Mmuso, it was easier because of Christian circles. And ungum'Zulu (he's Zulu) and the song Ungizungezile was in Zulu, so it was like 'ah it'll be great if Khaya featured'. I saw Bongeziwe Mabandla perform once and started following him around and later built a relationship with him. When Njengexhama came I thought that would be a great feature. I love people who make beautiful music and South African music. I'm always on the lookout for these people who are not celebrated here but make beautiful music.
#T: You guys were nominated for a Metro FM award within six months of releasing your first album. Talk us through the process of writing music to minister and the reactions you've received.
Mbonambi: I'll be honest with you, it was cool to win awards, especially when we were just starting out in the industry. The lights and all that stuff were nice, but when you kind of sit down and think about it, these are just accolades of men -- they don't count. We've been clear we're not here to build our names or be celebrities, we're here to do a job and advance God's kingdom, and that's what we're about. We do submit for awards simply from a business point of view, we think it's good to get honoured for being musicians. And even then, we don't even know the criteria, at first it used to bug me, now it doesn't.
Part one of the album will be released in November. Visit wewillworship.co.za