INDEPTH: UK-based Mandiopera’s enthralling debut album making waves

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By Tidi Kwidini

UK-based Zimbabwean gospel musician Nursel Mandiopera has released her debut album, You are my God.

After a successful listening party in March where she shared some of her favourite tracks with her guests, Nursel is now working on producing music videos for a few of her singles, set for release in a few months.

The all-encompassing nine-track album was produced by Zimbabwe-based music producer McDonald “MacDee” Chidavaenzi.

Tidi Kwidini (TK) caught up with Nursel (NM) to talk about the album, what inspires her and what is next on the cards.

TK: Walk us through your musical journey, where did it all begin?

NM: I started singing in church when I was really young. My dad enjoyed writing and composing songs and he still does. My mother loved singing as well, so there was always a lot of singing going on in our house. Music was always important to me and the more I sang, the more I realised I wanted to share my passion for singing with the world. In 2014 I recorded a few singles; ‘Like Heaven’ and ‘Who is there like you’. I produced videos for both singles, and they were released in January and June 2015.

TK: What else have you done since then?

In 2016, I was part of Free to Worship, a well-established and award-winning gospel group, I performed a song I wrote, ‘Praise Him.’ In 2017, I performed with yet another gospel group called Friends in Christ. After finishing the Friends in Christ project, I decided to go back to the studio and recorded my first debut album which I launched in March.

TK: What was the first genre that resonated with you when you knew music was something you wanted to pursue?

NM: I grew up in a conservative family, where gospel music was probably central to our daily listening, so I really enjoyed traditional gospel music, mostly hymns – that’s all I knew really. At church most of the songs were acapella, and I liked that. While l loved acapella and how it has a way of moving the soul, I knew I wanted the music I made to be catchy with inspiring lyrics.

TK: What was the process like putting your first album together?

NM: I had a number of songs that I had written. Initially I wanted to do an album with only five tracks, but I was so impressed with the producer I was working with, Macdee, I decided to add a few more and sent a list of songs to him. Macdee understood my vision and knew exactly what I wanted without having to say a thing – this was on all the tracks I recorded with him. It felt like he was there when I wrote the songs and he knew exactly what to do with them. It made the whole process easy and enjoyable. There were a number of long days, but it was all worth it in the end!

TK: Where did the inspiration for your album come from?

NM: I felt really compelled to work on this album because I had something I wanted to say and share with the world. Ultimately, it was the Holy Spirit speaking to me. Some of my inspiration came from other gospel artists who are pushing the message of love and the goodness of God through music, and travelling the world reaching out to many. Some of these artists include Shingisai Suluma, Tembalami, Tasha Cobbs, and Hillsong Worship, to name a few.

TK: What are your standout tracks on the album (and why)?

NM: The songs on the album are all personal to me in one way or another and listeners will find at least one track that appeals to them. If I had to call out one track, it would to be the album title track, ‘You are my God’. Every single lyric in the song is about what God has done to and for me. I’m praising Him, telling Him how grateful I am for what He has done for me and how He has changed me and made me who I am today. In a nutshell, it’s a thanksgiving song where I’m declaring what God has done for me and pledging that He alone shall be my God! I know that a lot of other people will have a similar testimony and would want to give Him thanks too, and singing this to Him is one of many ways someone can do that. I also really love ‘Your Presence’ and ‘Mira Ipapo’, both from personal experiences as well.

TK: You‘ve worked with a diverse team of musicians over the years. What are some of the things you have learnt working with musicians with different ideas and styles to yours?

Nursel Mandiopera

NM: I have mostly learnt to appreciate other styles of music that I would never have thought I could enjoy and listen to in my car or at home, had I not worked with other talented musicians. I have also learnt to be true to myself and be who I am whilst respecting everyone else. I also appreciate the diversity of styles and have learnt something from everyone I have ever worked with. They have all added something to my music and shown me there is more to music than what meets the eye or ear in this case.

TK: You are a member of your praise and worship team, how does that experience differ from your own personal music pursuits and do you ever channel what you do in your church’s music ministry into the music you produce?

NM: I’m blessed to be part of my local church’s praise and worship team. It has a lot of young talented girls and boys who are all really passionate about their ministry. When I sing at church, it’s like you are ministering to family, you are singing to and with familiar faces and sharing something beautiful in God’s presence, which I love. Whenever I’m elsewhere other than my local church, it’s a little overwhelming and I get really nervous. However, once I start ministering, I have a sense of peace and focus on who I’m singing for, God. I get lost in his praises and enjoy giving God glory, and He usually does the rest with His people – the audience.

TK: How do you balance pursuing your passion for music and family life?

NM: This is not always easy for me. My family and music mean the world to me. I’m grateful that I have a supportive husband who understands when I need to spend a lot of time in the studio. I try to make the most of every minute I am with my family. We do everything together – play games, go out, dance to music and more. The desire to have more time with my family also pushes me to work harder. I hope to have my own studio soon, so I can spend more time with them and make music simultaneously.

TK: Other than music, what else do you enjoy doing?

NM: I am also a farmer! I am into cattle ranching and have managed to buy some cattle. In the next couple of years, I’m planning to increase my herd and venture into cattle fattening. I also want to do some crops, I’m interested in wheat and I think I may just start that as well.
In terms of personal development, I have taken up a few personal development programs, just to better myself as a person.

TK: Who are your musical inspirations and how have they influenced your music?

NM: I have so many people that have inspired me, namely Shingisai Suluma, she has taught me that you can start at any time, and you don’t need to be under 21. Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Kierra Sheard, Anita Wilson, Chris Tomlin, Tye Tribbett and Hillsong have also inspired me immensely. Hillsong have had the most influence on the sound of most of my songs but my writing is still mostly traditional.

TK: Who would you love to open for at a major concert?

NM: I would definitely love to share the stage with Hillsong and minister at a Big Church Day Out event.

TK: What is next on the cards, any plans to tour nationally and internationally?

NM: For the immediate future, I’m planning to do an ‘introductory tour’ visiting as many churches as possible to minister and reach a wider audience using all digital and social media platforms. As soon as an opportunity to tour internationally presents itself, I will be ready to dive straight in by God’s grace. I’m ready to go all in for the Kingdom!

You are my God is now available on all digital platforms