Obituary

Renowned Catholic composer Richard Tonganai laid to rest

By Albert Munyanyi

BIKITA, MASVINGO – In a beautiful celebration of a life dedicated to sacred music, the renowned Catholic composer Richard Tonganai was laid to rest at his homestead yesterday in Negovani Village. The funeral, attended by a multitude of mourners, was a testament to Tonganai’s profound service to the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe.

Among those present were the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Masvingo, Rt Rev. Raymond Mupandasekwa,  14 Catholic Priests, 3 Reformed Church in Zimbabwe Pastors, 11 Catholic sisters, and over 30 composers from various dioceses as well as hundreds of faithfuls, family and friends who came to pay their last respects to the gifted composer.

Richard Tonganai, who passed on at the age of 77, leaves behind a rich legacy of  22 timeless sacred songs that continue to  vibrate the walls of church. He is survived with his wife, Rachael, children and grand children.

The requiem mass, led by Bishop Raymond Mupandasekwa, was such  a vibrant and celebratory occasion characterized by his songs that seem to address almost all the major liturgical aspects of the Catholic mass. In his homily, Bishop Mupandasekwa paid tribute to Tonganai’s extraordinary talent and his unwavering commitment to enriching the Church through sacred songs.

Eulogies from priests, the religious, fellow composers, choir members and other lay faithfuls painted a vivid picture of Tonganai’s dedication, and unwavering faith. Fr. Mafusire, the Masvingo Diocese Spiritual Director for Composers and Choirs, described the late Tonganai as a beacon whose music will remain a timeless gift to the Church; a sentiment that was also echoed by the Composers Association Chairperson, Mr Mapanzure.

Longtime composers including Messers Makaure, Mupagamuri, Shiri, Mukanyi, and Mrs Musinami reminisced about their shared passion for music and the late Richard Tonganai’s tireless pursuit of excellence in the composition of church songs. They described the late composer as a mentor, a friend, and an inspiration to them all.

As the sun shown down on Negovani, Richard Tonganai was laid to rest but his music will echo forever. His legacy will undoubtedly continue to inspire generations to come, as his songs continue to uplift and enrich the spiritual lives of countless souls.

Eulogies and tributes pour in celebration of Richard Tonganai’s life

  • “Richard Tonganai has gone to sing with the angels. His music was like a prayer, and his melodies touched our hearts. Though his voice is quiet now, his songs will always be with us.” ~ Fr. Mafusire (Spiritual Director, Masvingo Diocese Composer and Choirs Association)
  • “Masvingo Diocese has lost a giant. Mr Tonganai’s music was a gift to us, a treasure that will always fill our hearts. I am in pain but at the time happy for the great service he gave to the Church. 22 songs is no joke!  I also want to thank Sekuru Mupandasekwa according our veteran composer the respect of celebrating his burial mass.” ~ I. Mapanzure (Masvingo Diocese Composers Chairman)
  • Our Church has lost a great composer. His talent was like a bright star, and he worked hard to share his gift. His music brought together our faith and our culture. He has gone to join other greats: Fr Ribeiro, Mr Ponde, Mr Banga, Mrs Chipapata, Sr Ruvadiki, Mrs Takura others.May their souls rest in in peace.” ~ T. Mangoma (National Chairman, ZICASAM)
  • “Richard’s passing leaves a big hole in Zimbabwean music. He was a great composer who touched many lives. He will be remembered through his music and the many musicians he inspired.” ~ Mr. Muchenu (Composer from the Archdiocese of Harare/ former National Chairman)
  • “My heart is heavy for the loss of my friend. We shared a love for music and travelled a long composing journey together. Tonganai was always full of ideas and made everyone happy. We will never forget the good times and the music we made.” ~ J. Makaure (Fellow composer, Senior)
  • “Mr. Tonganai’s music is like medicine for the soul. He was a true composer who put his heart into every note. We will miss his kind spirit and his beautiful music.” ~ Mrs. Musinami ( Fellow composer, Senior)
  • “We say goodbye to a fellow traveler on the road of mmusic. The man’s love for music was a fire that burned bright, inspiring us all. He was a teacher and a source of inspiration. His music will always echo in our hearts.” ~ J. Chikovo (Composer)
  • “Sekuru Tonganai made a big difference in my life. He believed in the young, helped us with our composing dreams, and taught us so much. I am thankful for his guidance, his kindness, and the beautiful music he shared with the Church.” ~ R. Musiiwa nee Homba

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