Saturday, 25 February 2017

Dinner with Mkhululi Bhebhe

Celebrated gospel artiste, Mkhululi Bhebhe, last week revealed that he was dumped by his girlfriend just before he was invited to join South Africa based group, Joyous Celebration, due to the financial challenges he was facing after his career took a knock.

While he flourished on the Idols stage in 2008, his marketing job suffered and he was ordered to resign.

By Fatima Bulla
Bhebhe shared an evening of laughter with The Sunday Mail Religion, narrating his experiences.

Now a well known artiste who has met internationally acclaimed gospel artistes like America’s Mary Mary, Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin, Marvin Sapp; Bhebhe said at one time, his life sunk so low that he could not afford to call his girlfriend.

“She sent a message breaking up with me, she thought being unemployed was a choice. I remember it was in the morning and I tried to reach out to her the whole day.

“She never replied. I had to borrow 50 rands from one of the brothers in the house to go and see her around 4pm. Where I stayed I needed to take three taxis to get to her place and coming back would make it six. In addition, there was a 6:30pm curfew where I was staying. When I got to her place I knocked but there was no answer.

“I sat across the street watching the apartment so I would not miss her arrival. After 8pm I went back to the apartment and knocked, all to no avail. But I could hear some movements. That’s when I decided to let it go,” Bhebhe said.

The 32-year-old had met the lady just before his Idols quest in 2008.

“After the Eastern and Southern African Idols I placed sixth. Then things fell apart. When you don’t have a job it becomes a problem. But my mother always inspired me not to give up.

“I then went to South Africa to look for a job. Sometimes God frustrates you in order to place you in a certain position that is better. When l got to South Africa things were very difficult. The relatives I was living with started complaining and asking me about my plans since I had overstayed.

“This lady did a lot for me. She called, she texted, she sent me airtime and I never took her out! I was being a problem to her. That is when she got fed up.”

Stranded, Bhebhe remembered a pastor’s wife who had identified his talent at a conference in Zimbabwe and had left her contact details. He called her and without hesitation, she took him in as she had done others who had called on her.

“So the pastor’s wife who had given me the opportunity to lead praise and worship was working with Khaya FM. She knew the guys from Joyous Celebration and at that time they were looking for a foreign artiste. Then she said she had one from her church, referring to me. Yet I had never sung in front of them.

“Just after a month I got a call from Joyous Celebration. I came to realise that doors have to be closed for others to be opened,” the Bulawayo born musician said.

Now Bhebhe’s story is completely different.

He finds himself under immense pressure as he tries to marry his solo career with his Joyous Celebration act.

On leaving Zimbabwe last week, he joined Joyous Celebration on a tour to Lesotho. The tour will proceed to Dubai. Then a full line up of shows will see him travel to Mozambique, Namibia, Ghana, Botswana, New Zealand, Australia and USA, all the way into June.

“There was a time when I flew from the US to Johannesburg and went straight onto the stage without finding any time to sleep. I don’t have time to rest and I perfect my voice, even if it means I have a flu. I cannot explain how this happens, I can only say it’s the grace of God.”

Bhebhe has performed at Bishop TD Jakes’ Potter’s House.

However, his best experience was his performance with McClurkin at a concert where he was the sole representative for Africa

“Pastor Donnie really stands out of all the people I have met because we once headlined the same show. It was a case of Africa meets America. We were also booked in the same hotel so I had to control myself not to knock on his hotel door. So I got to see him live.”

Despite his energetic performances, Bhebhe has not always been a crowd favourite. He feels any artiste harbours the fear of being rejected by their audience.

“I used to sing with a certain group in Bulawayo before Joyous Celebration. So at one time we were invited to perform but Sandra Ndebele was the main highlight. We got on stage and people booed us. That response is the fear of any artiste, you are torn between continuing or leaving. People could see that we were hesitating.

“I had a similar experience in Cape Town in 2010 when the crowd was just wondering, looking at me and saying who is this dude?

‘‘When I joined Joyous Celebration I was the only one who would lead a song that was not on the CD. I remember someone shouting ‘who are you?’ Even when the choir was supporting me, those guys were just sitting there. The song that got them warming up was ‘Ichokwadi’ two years later.

Born in a family of five, Bhebhe was raised by his mother after his parents’ separation. His father passed away in 2002, followed by his sister in 2003.

A product of St Columbus and David Livingstone Schools, Bhebhe said his mother is his greatest fan.

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