Yet another article from The SCOAN’s new publication, ‘Read Us’, detailing the extraordinary story of South African Gospel star, Sechaba, and his life-changing visit to The SCOAN!
From both physical and spiritual perspectives, Sechaba Pali’s road to success has been a rough one, fraught with many hurdles and stumbles. Recently crowned the new king of the South African Gospel scene after winning the coveted award for Best Traditional Gospel Album at the MTN South African Music Awards, the street-boy turned gospel-sensation has much to thank God for. His remarkable story, one of both stardom and salvation, serves to remind us that success is not to be measured by our popularity before men but our position before God.
Sechaba was a pastor’s kid in name but not in nature. “I grew up in a gospel house,” he reminisced in an exclusive chat with Read Us, “but I wasn’t following what they were saying. After singing and playing the keyboard, I would go and smoke with my friends.” After being kicked out of school due to poor grades and even worse behavior, he was forced by his parent’s financial incapability to look for a job at the age of 15. Searching for greener pastures, Sechaba headed for Johannesburg only to discover that employment was more difficult to come across in Jo’burg than it had been in the Free State. Faced with the hardships and prejudices of a city where he knew no one, Sechaba was ultimately forced to live on the streets with no money even to return home. “I slept on the streets for two and a half years,” he reflected.Living under a bridge in Balfour Park, the bitter cold of night left Sechaba without sleep and hope. Realizing how his other colleagues survived the cold nights, he soon resorted to hard drugs each night to keep himself warm. “I joined the drugs company and that’s only when I was able to sleep.”
Whilst smoking, he and his new acquaintances would often sing together in the cold night to comfort themselves. Noticing the uniqueness of Sechaba’s powerful voice, a local street vendor who sold her food near to his bridge offered Sechaba free food if he would agree to sing for her. “I started to enjoy singing – because I know if I sing, I will get a plate to eat!” Earning a living through washing taxi cars, Sechaba then met a man who went beyond just acknowledging his raw singing talent. Taking Sechaba to Downtown Music Warehouse, a haven for both new and established musicians, the man literally dumped him at their doorsteps and drove off. Sighting a group of singers, he followed them to an area where new artists were to register. After much perseverance and a touch of providence, Sechaba ended up being given a job as a cleaner, and accommodation by the lady who worked in the kitchen. “Then they promoted me from cleaning to cooking – so I was delivering the food to the artists,” he remarked whimsically.
The new job paved way for Sechaba to showcase his talent, as he knew whenever singing auditions would take place. A breakthrough came on the day of auditioning for Joyous Celebration, the renowned and record-breaking collaboration of South African gospel talent. “On the day of auditions for Joyous, I was there to bring them food. There was a guy who was singing and I didn’t like the way he sang – and it was a song I loved so much. So I approached one of the members there – can I sing that song. They laughed at me and said – you are a cook, you don’t know how to sing. But Lindelani Mtinzi overheard and said – ok, sing for me. So I went to the mic, closed my eyes and sang. I was just remembering the way I used to sing by myself at home. When I opened my eyes, everyone was just clapping their hands and shouting. That is how Joyous took me.”
Within a month, Sechaba went from singing on the streets to performing at a gospel festival in London, singing before thousands with Joyous Celebration. “In London, it happened that I was the one singing the song they chose to play on TV. So everybody could see me – even in my hometown.” Sechaba rocketed to fame. Before long, Tshepo Nzimande, coincidentally one of the people he used to wash cars for, offered him a solo deal with Bula Music. His debut album, ‘Sechaba’ became a hit, selling more than 500,000 copies and firmly establishing him in the heart of the South African Gospel scene.
But, although Sechaba was singing gospel with his mouth, his heart was still far from it. “I wasn’t a Christian and I hadn’t accepted Jesus. I was just doing my own thing.” Still addicted to smoking, his troubled past soon took its toll as Sechaba began to fall into disrepute as the ‘bad boy of gospel’, with regular reports of his misbehavior and numerous car crashes hitting the tabloids and staining his image. His popularity was soaring but peace and purpose were still elusive.
However, providence was arranging a trip for Sechaba that would release him into his true calling – his divine calling. As Sechaba slotted in a DVD he had been given of Prophet T.B. Joshua of The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations, little did he know that in faraway Lagos, Nigeria, T.B. Joshua had seen him singing on the One Gospel music channel, and had received divine instruction to invite him to the church. “I saw him doing very wonderful miracles,” Sechaba remarked. “People were always telling me it is magic – that no pastor can do that. But I needed to see this magic. I said that I would love to see this prophet one day.” Shortly afterwards, South African businessmen Tim Tibeila contacted the singer to say that Prophet T.B. Joshua had invited him to Nigeria. Divine arrangement was at work.
In March 2009, Sechaba arrived in Lagos, not realizing the trip he was embarking on was set to change his life and reignite his unique career. “When I arrived, I fought with the guys outside because I needed to go and smoke. I didn’t know I was going to be delivered from smoking,” he chuckled. During the Sunday Service, he received prayer from Prophet T.B. Joshua and fell instantly to the ground under the power of the Holy Spirit. “To tell you the truth, by the time the prophet prayed for me, I didn’t know what happened. I had been to a lot of churches and a lot of pastors have prayed for me. I always saw people falling – but I told myself there is no pastor that can pray for me and I will go down like that.”
Rising tearfully from the prayer, Sechaba mumbled almost incoherently to the prophet: “I want to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour.” Taking him to the altar of the church, the prophet calmly told him, “You just confess Him and accept Him here and let us pray for you.” Suddenly realizing the gravity of his former lifestyle, Sechaba began to publicly repent and acknowledge his need for a Saviour. “It’s God who made me a musician,” he sobbed. “I didn’t know that every time I smoke, I’m taking God far away from me.” Reassuring him, the prophet told him to sing a song as a declaration of his new stand: ‘I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back’. As Sechaba’s sonorous voice resonated throughout The SCOAN arena in a truly heart-felt rendition that brought many of the congregation to tears, he felt a change within him. “To tell you the truth – it was the first time I was singing and feeling the Holy Spirit all over my body. The day that I accepted Jesus was the first time I felt my voice hitting my heart.”
The congregation and viewers worldwide who were part of the live service on Emmanuel TV joined in prayer for Sechaba, led by Prophet T.B. Joshua. “Father, we thank You for coming into his heart. Continue to strengthen him – strengthen his desire and his determination for You only. He has decided to follow You.” The prophet then exhorted the singer to stay true to his promise to never go back to the world, encouraging Christians worldwide to remember him in their prayers. “The life he has started now – the beginner is not the owner but the finisher.” Immediately following the prayer, Sechaba’s urge to smoke miraculously disappeared. “Since I was prayed for, I never felt anything like pain. It’s like I’ve been born not smoking,” he joyfully testified.
Upon leaving The SCOAN, Sechaba continued his career, but this time with a significant change. Going into the studio to work on his third album, the atmosphere was palpably different. “It was in that moment that I realised I had never felt what I was singing about until right there and then. It was the first time and everyone started crying. I had goose bumps throughout the recording.” The album, Umanghihambe Nawe (My Walk With God), received rave reviews and catapulted Sechaba to even greater heights of awareness and acclaim. But a bigger accolade was on its way.
On 16th April 2010, competing against some of the South African Gospel heavyweights, Sechaba walked away with a SAMA Award for Best Traditional Gospel Album, a remarkable achievement for the relatively new artist. He attributes the victory to his new-found walk with God following his life-changing visit to The SCOAN. “I see myself as nothing but a pencil in the hands of God. He is using me to reach out to the masses out there. I am happy that I have won an award, however the greatest award is the one that I will get in heaven for fulfilling my calling. And I do not take the glory; it is only through Him that I managed to win this award. His timing is never early or late,” said Sechaba when asked how he felt about winning the award.
When Read Us asked Sechaba to sum up his experiences at The SCOAN and his prospects for the future, his reply echoed the truly remarkable transformation. “I was a gospel artist before, but now I am a worshipper…”
SOURCE: Read Us – Edition 3