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    Saturday, 8 July 2017

    Legendary Catholic songs composer remembered


    MASVINGO – One of the Roman Catholic Church's pioneer Shona songs composer, Stephen Magwe Ponde was remembered recently when family and friends held 10th anniversary prayers at his graveside at Lawn Cemetery in Masvingo.
    Veteran educationist and retired former Bondolfi Teachers' College principal, Herbet Benson Chikukwa described Ponde as a man who made iconic contributions to the development of the Catholic Shona hymns.
    In 1988, when Pope John Paul came to Zimbabwe, Ponde received a personal blessing from the Pope for his great work and was presented with a medal marking a Holy Year.
    Ponde who was a veteran educationist and former head of Bondolfi Primary School died on June 4, 2007. He features prominently in a book written by Fr J Lenherr titled A History of the Beginning of African Style Church Music in the Roman Catholic Church among the Shona People.
    Fr Lenherr says in the book that he arrived in Rhodhesia in 1961 after being sent by superiors of the Swiss Bethlehem Mission Society to help in creating an African style church music, a project that was to be done without any delay.
    Fr Lenherr had no inkling of any of the African languages and the task was mammoth even though he had trained in Western music.
    He says Ponde is the man who made the mission possible and is the one who the development and growth of the Shona song in the Catholic Church should be attributed to. He says Ponde was recommended to him to assist him with his work.
    The two met at Serima Mission. Ponde had been involved in some of the very first Shona plays by the church together with renowned author, Fr Ribeiro. Fr Lenherr then asked Ponde to start composing some Shona texts.
    He did and from then on Ponde became perpetually involved in the composition of hymns. He was at the centre-stage when the Church eventually agreed to introduce the African drum in the church albeit after long debates.
    The introduction of mbira was another contentious issue at the time and Ponde was also involved in guiding such debates.
    He got involved in conducting many singing courses throughout the country as the church started introducing Shona hymns.
    He won the top prize at the All Africa Church Music Competitions.
    "Dozens of church music compositions from many African countries were presented, criticised and analysed. Of all these compositions Mr Ponde's music received top rating in the judgment of 28 participants," reads part of the book.
    In 1965, Ponde was elected vice president of the All African Church Music Association. In July 1966 he became the head at Bondolfi Primary School.
     He became a role model at Bondolfi.
    The commemoration of the works of the man three weeks ago was done through praying, singing and bible reading.
    Ponde who was born on January 1, 1932 died on June 4 2007 after he suffered a stroke in February the same year. His wife passed away on September 29 2012.
    Ponde who stayed in Morningside is survived by his 6 children, a daughter Cecilia and 5 sons namely John, Stephen, Farai, Alois, and Takunda.
    Ponde who was the first black to have a plot at Morningside was the first born in a family of seven.
    He did his education at Driefontein, Standard 4 until 1952 when he completed Standard 6. He did his UJC at Gokomere from 1953 to 1955 and enrolled at Gokomere Teachers' College for Primary Teachers – Higher (PTH) qualification from 1956 to 1957.
    After his father died in 1952, he assumed responsibility and leadership of his father's family before marrying Hedwig in 1962.
    Prior to 1962 Catholic Church used Latin as the language for Liturgy. In 1962 Vatican II council allowed mass to be said in vernacular and indigenous hymns to be sang in church.
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