Mary and Martha are the singing sisters who make up the proliferating Afro-jazz gospel duo known as the Anibal Sisters.
The two were born out of a singing family of five in Harare and looking at their background they have a lot to be thankful about – a safe, solid upbringing, nurturing parents, strong singing voices and supportive and caring mentors Bishop Sasa and Mathius Mhere, who made it their business to constantly check on their developments and challenging them to do even more in their tender ages.
Honing up their skills, the duo, Martha (23), and Mary(18), used to cover songs by other gospel artists and, like their parents, they could use tapes to record themselves. After a stint in travelling gospel plays and performing at churches, the pair started singing backup vocals for several gospel artists, but their hearts were always in becoming a separate outfit of their own.
A meeting with producer Alpha ‘A. Dee‘ Dhapi proved fortuitous for their professional lives – he helped nurture the sisters artistically and eventually recorded their debut album entitled Simuka Upenye. The album encompasses six tracks, Simuka Upenye, Inyasha, Mhanya, Ruponiso, Hallelujah and Kudenga and was met with positive reception.
Upon its release, they had a chance to premiere it at a local radio station and the overall acclaim was overwhelming for burgeoning artists.
A glance at their stage work attests that the sisters are not just beautiful vocalists, but are also remarkable performers, having performed at the Harare International Women’s Day Gala, Megafest, and at several weddings.
Over the years they have also worked and subsequently toured as backup singers for a variety of gospel acts, the likes of Mathius Mhere, Pastor Josh Kayz, Tsitsi Kudita, Obert Mazivisa, Flame B, Kudzi Nyakudya, Sebastian Magacha, and Pastor Marecha.
Controversially, they are also proud to be one of the few musical gospel outfits popularising the use of mbira and traditional shakers even though the ancient musical instruments are frowned upon by many Christians. Their music, which is dominated by the mbira rhythm, looks set to redefine the Zimbabwean way of worship which has for the longest time been largely dominated by Eurocentric and West African sound.
In an interview with Hallelujah Magazine, the sisters declared:
‘We can bring mbira into the house of God. We are trying to to run away from the guitars, the keyboards and other instruments.’
And just like any other crop of artists who have unapologetically implemented the native instrument (Fungisai and Israel Israel included), they have been criticized and discouraged for it.
However, most of their fans are not just getting used to them with their mbira, but are beginning to accept and love them for it.
The mbira is the national instrument of Zimbabwe, where it holds an important place in ‘all spiritual, political and artistic matters’ of the Shona people. In Christian-colonized Rhodesia, it was frowned upon as a heathen instrument and many Christians still hold that view to date.
It is such a bold move by the sisters to be championing such a societal odd and we are so excited that they are winning in their endeavour to de-spiritualizes and demystify a beautiful instrument which we believe should be used anywhere comfortably.
Marry and Martha also believes in the potential that overall Zimbabwean gospel artists have. They also acknowledge the challenges they are facing like the lack of sponsorship, promotion and exposure of on bigger and better platforms.
‘We are not yet there, but we still trying to push. We think Zimbabwe can be big. We just don’t have the resources, like South Africa and other countries.’
Adding to the list of the people they have managed to work with, it is also their dream and goal to collaborate with other gospel greats such as Ntokozo Mbambo and Tasha Cobbs.
On details about their latest album, you can go to their Facebook page here and send them a direct message.