By Ntsiki Mkhize
The setting: a wet evening in the city of gold with We Will Worship (WWW) that runs as an NPO to His People Church and was founded in 2006 by Langa.
The mood: it’s been a long day at work and the musical group is geared up for an evening rehearsal and was kind enough to speak to me.
The stage: we are inside a cosy room with inspiring artwork on the walls.
With the whole scene in motion, I spoke with Langa and Lesego and was later joined by Alfred aka Zealous, Nono and Andrew. Lights, camera, action!
Ntsiki: Back in 2006, I think I was in grade 9 (Langa gasps and we all start laughing) His People hosted a concert in JHB to celebrate God’s work on campuses. All these amazing young people came together with original content to celebrate God. How was the concert and how did the idea come about?
Langa: We were students and I was one of the youth pastors on UJ campus and it was around the time when Hillsong United was big. It was great, however it was not South African and it did not quite “hit the spot”-very rock ’n roll. We had talent shows on all our campuses and people would write songs and you’d hear them only that night and that would be it. We has song writers and God was doing amazing stuff in our mists, so the idea was to write about what God was doing in our surroundings and we wrote songs and rehearsed and had the concert.
Ntsiki: Did any of the songs from that performance make it to the first WWW album, Malibongwe?
Langa: No, actually. It was just that one night.
Ntsiki: How important would you say the arts are to spreading the gospel and getting people involved in general?
Lesego: In the age that we live in there is a lot of emphasis on doing your own thing. People easily relate to an art form of ministry and each of us, with our different talents are in ministry and God does something in us through our music as well as our poetry. It is young and fresh and people can relate to it, thus the gospel is preached.
Langa: Just as with you guys (referring to I4W) you are into words and writing, there is power in the message and how it is you communicate it. Pertaining to the art form, people need to be more conscious when writing songs, knowing that there is a message that can be conveyed. And people respond to it better. I am not saying we should discard preaching, but there is a way that people put words together in poetry that just speaks to the heart and aligning that to music. Also being African, something about hearing the drum just moves you, so putting all of that together, it communicates to people beyond the norm. When you look into the Word, there are love songs and worship songs and a key thing are songs over the nation, for the nation, about the nation. That is why guys like Bob Marley and Bob Dylan were so influential and were amazing song writers, because they spoke to the nation. For instance when last did you hear a song about South Africa?
Ntsiki: Would you say there are enough platforms in SA to encourage the arts in ministry? Even as WWW are there many opportunities to get out there?
Langa: No there isn’t. There are pockets of movements everywhere, but not on a large scale. Movements are about numbers and gaining momentum and people would like to be part of something that has momentum. However for us, we were just doing it as we felt it was what God wanted us to do, but because we’re so involved on what happens on campuses, we were able to get the masses behind us and it was a massive blessing with people wanting to know who we are. The music we have is great-I’m sure there are more people doing it around the country, they just have not had the same momentum as we have.
Ntsiki: Would you then say a platform should be created where people can engage one another, just how yearly there is a jazz festival or something of the sort, should there then be a Youth Christian music festival?
Langa: Yes, but people don’t believe in Christian (we chuckle). Christians don’t believe in Christians.
Ntsiki: So then what is the missing link for the youth, like how older people get together and go to a Joyous Celebration concert at Carnival City. How do we get the youths that come here and love their church and the music to collaborate on a greater scale?
Langa: Well, we need young leaders that really stand out, we have plenty, but not many that truly stand out. People want people to follow, hence the pockets of movements around, but none of them are in the spotlight and those who are are not always those we can look up to and are sometimes barely hanging in there. We are going into a time where we will see people rise up, particularly young black people. They will rise up boldly and the people in the pockets will come out as well.
Ntsiki: Coming back to We Will Worship, important in our walk with God is discipleship. What are members of the band doing in this regard and how do you get them to understand that this is an extension of who they are and not something they live during practice or only on Sundays?
Langa: What we are here for is in our name. We Will Worship in everything. The idea is that worship is in everything we do, not just singing, but an everyday lifestyle of worship. For us to be champions of that, we need to embrace it and live it. Naturally when you’re in the spotlight you’re automatically seen as a leader, whether or not you see yourself as that. People see you sing a song and think you stand for that, so part of the whole process is the vision, an orientation to following after the Lord. That was a given in the beginning as the initial members were part of His People and were in the business of discipling others, so moving forward with new people we present the vision to them; this is the standard, this is what it means, this is how to be a part of it, and ask if they are up to living it and following it wholeheartedly. We ask where your life is, are you in a relationship; where you at in that? We go in deep, because we stand for something and we represent young people in this country and we have to carry that with the fear of God. For us, where it really counts is off stage, when we are interacting with people and they can see that this is not just another gospel group that just sings ‘Jesus’. It is quite frightening to know how many people in the industry truly live what they preach.
Ntsiki: True. That brings me to my next question, who in the industry do you look up to and would like to be mentored by?
Lesego: There isn’t really anyone.
Langa: Yeah there isn’t. Personally, I do not know a lot of local gospel artists and I don’t keep up with what is going on everywhere. Those I have interacted with are Ntokozo Mbambo and Nqubeko. They have been around for a long time and catching their hearts, I know they are genuinely for the Lord in everything they have been through. It is all about relationships, ultimately anyone we partner with has to be moving in the same direction and not jeopardize what we stand for.
Ntsiki: Understandably so, it is easier to maintain relationships when you are small and have built them on a good foundation, but the bigger people become there is that risk of becoming distant, so sitting down and talking and knowing one’s truth is important.
Langa: And we want to do that. To talk about when you first encountered Christ and getting to know ones story.
Ntsiki: That interaction is so important and seems to be lacking in many institutions. One place you probably got to interact with many people was the SAMA’s. How was that journey and performing in that big of an arena?
Lesego: For me it was big (she says with glistening eyes) I had just joined WWW a few weeks prior, so to be part of them on that scale was amazing. And being sober minded about it, it was realizing that God can do whatever He wants and on whatever scale with a willing heart. It was humbling and I think I speak on behalf of all of us when I say that we realized it was just God. WWW was hardly in the industry, it had been less than a year since the first album came out and we received exposure that people who have been in the industry many years haven’t.
Langa: We had been around 6 months at the time.
Lesego: Gee, not even half a year. I recall being in the dressing room and we had a conversation with Arthur. He was talking about how we were so fortunate to have had that opportunity as he had been trying for some years to get some of his artists on 999 to perform on this scale and he said to us “this is bigger than you”. That was such a God-moment for us.
Ntsiki: Wow! That is so amazing, were you nervous?
Lesego: My heels were so high and the stage was revolving. I was nervous and I was so scared I was going to fall; thank God we had mike stands. Also the realization that we were not only performing for the auditorium, but everyone at home as well was overwhelming. I recall, after the performance I read a few tweets, with people asking about “the gospel group from the SAMA’s” and I think people were not expecting it, but I could tell during the performance that something great had just happened. Somebody actually said that when the gospel group came on, something came into the atmosphere.
Ntsiki: I totally agree and Malibongwe is such a powerful song. With all that has happened, what would you say has been your greatest experience?
Lesego: For me personally I would say it is looking back at where God has taken us. Seeing how He can take someone’s vision and build it if you are willing and He can make it so much bigger than what you expected. For me it is a highlight. If God says; “do that”, then do it and He will surprise you. That journey is amazing.
Langa: For me I think it is two-fold, similar to hers, but also a few weeks ago we were in Cape Town at Back to the Theatre and we performed Yahweh, which is on our next album-it is quite catchy. I do a lot of bible study and I had been studying that name. Yahweh is God’s personal name…it is His name, not a title or a characteristic. Yi gama lakhe! At some point we stopped singing and the crowd carried on and you could hear echoes of “Yah-weh-eh-eh-eh” and His name just being lifted up and exalted in that moment. Then the thought that He would use us for that and allow us to be part of this moment hit me. I know I started the movement, but there are those moments one thinks “wow, this is really happening”, those moments when you feel “wow God!”
Ntsiki: When you started this, did you think this would happen?
Langa: It is literally what I saw; I was just hanging out with the Lord and I had a vision of hands being lifted up to Him, there was no details around it. If I get something I just run with it and figure it out along the way. Also to have contributed to other peoples’ worship, when they sing Malibongwe at their own services is great. The other thing was having Lesego join, who is now a worship leader, but had previously been singing back-up and we didn’t even know she could sing. One day I heard her while we were doing mike checks and thought “hold on, there is something here”. Now, for the next album, she has contributed at least 4 of the 12 songs. For me that has been such a blessing; to see someone step into their calling and their gift. My hope is to see others fan to flame what God has given them.
Ntsiki: On the more technical things, We Will Worship is a Non-profit Organization to an extent, how do you keep afloat?
Langa: My wife and I started the WWW Arts Foundation and raised funds through people who believe in the vision and with that money we were able to record about three songs and two poems. From those sales we were able to get a venue where we did our live recording and from those tickets sales we were able to cover production costs and basically one thing funded the next and it just flowed. The wonderful thing is that everyone who was part of the first album did so voluntarily, no one got paid anything and so we are here today. Also, part of the Arts Foundation is to develop talented artists and disciple them, so they can serve beyond this band. The album is selling much better now and that is helping stay afloat. The foundation’s focus is to identify talent, groom it and release these amazing people into the country, offering them a platform to express their talent.
Ntsiki: Has there been a particular time throughout the journey where you felt you were holding on for dear faith?
Langa: When we recorded the first album, my wife and I did everything single handedly and she was pregnant. We recorded late April and she gave birth early June. Also it was our first time recording – I had never done it before and I was executive producer and I thought “I’m doing this, but what does it mean”. And coordinating a team, it is not as though the whole team is just waiting around-everyone is busy, so we get together after hours. It has been rough and real. A big part of it is God constantly refining the vision, knowing what you want, but not knowing exactly how you’re going to get there. Also being invited to various places which is great, but we are ministers and we want to hear what God is doing and pray into people’s lives, and they just want to hear Malibongwe. We have a set list, but sometimes the Holy Spirit just takes over and when the anointing shows up, you can’t really stick to the set list and people don’t always get it and they are disappointed.
Ntsiki: The next album is coming out, do you plan on going international for The album, as well as the move-meant?
Langa: The heart for us is to see worship flow from Africa, see what people are doing in the arts and let worship flow from there. We tend to look overseas a lot, but people come here and they hear the music and the African authenticity and we want to stay true to that and share the beauty with the world.
Ntsiki: We Will Worship 5 years from now, the move that is meant, where do you see it going?
Nono: For WWW I see it is going to be epic-more than it is now, stadiums being filled, people coming from all over Africa for conferences. I see it being a lifestyle and just touching heaven. I see Langa preaching in stadiums.
Lesego: I believe God wants us to change the life game of gospel in this country. What God is doing in us, people will think gospel, but not in the way they do now. They will see it with such reverence and that gospel at the end of the day is about Jesus, not about fame. They will see WWW, how we are and be inspired to worship God in spirit and in truth.
Langa: I see worship as the true worshiping of Jesus and a separating of those who are and those who are not. Especially with the younger generations where people will say “I am a Christian and a real one, whether you like it or not”. I see people starting to get platforms and addressing serious things head on, such as false doctrines and there will be a separating. When you calling people out, you are bound to make enemies and young people will stand up to what is true. I believe worship will be a big part of that and people will worship radically. That is why leadership is such an important thing, people need to know that there are people doing it and to be reassured that living for Christ can be done.
Ntsiki: We do want authentic material and people to gravitate to that which is real. Finally I would like to know from each of you, what it the one truth that you hold onto?
Langa: That Jesus is real and that what he did on the cross was real and that is it. Everything else it just an addition. It is a mystery, I know with all my heart that it is real, I do not have photos and I was not there, but it is real.
Lesego: That’s my primary truth as well. Also, I think it is in Psalm 24, where it speaks of the generation that seeks the face of Jacob’s God, and it says that “who will ascend the hail of the Lord, he who has clean hands and a pure heart”. For me having a pure heart is one of the things God has been stressing in my life. It is not only about; I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I’m not having sex, but it is much more than that. God’s standard is much higher than that. It is living from the inside out.
Ntsiki: That is so true, because in the world people tend to get caught up with the physical, but when God starts dealing with you, He moves you out of the physical and deals with your heart.
Nono: The goodness of God and how He is our Father and He has such good intentions when it comes to us and the stuff that happens in our lives. Sometimes you cannot see when you are faced with a situation that God is going to work it out, but in hindsight it comes together. God is good and He is kind and He is the sweetest person ever.
Alfred: Adding onto what Langa said, there is a part in Psalm 139 that says “where can I go away from your presence.” I cannot go anywhere and you are not there. Simply pondering from that, if we are created in His image then how do you escape that? How do I run from Him when He is already where I am running to? Truth is, He is everywhere and I am learning to understand that in my heart and for my life.
Andrew: That Jesus is Lord, no matter what I do, no matter my mess up. He is on the throne.
Lesego: I would like to add an overarching truth; it is about having an eternal mindset. That whatever you do now, has eternal repercussion, whether it is in thought, in word or in deed. God is not mocked and every single thing I do I am accountable to God first and that has been liberating.
Ntsiki: That is all so amazing. Thank-you all so much. I am really excited with what God is doing with We Will Worship and I look forward to your album.