The gospel according to Dr Tumi

2017-09-05 16:20
PHOTO: Dr Tumi/Instagram

DR Tumi, whose real name is Tumišang Makweya, is without a doubt the architect of a new phenomenon in gospel music. Fresh from celebrating the success of his first album, Love and Grace, that racked over 12 awards and went double platinum, the psalmist is now enjoying the success of his latest album, Heart of the King. Within a few weeks of its release, the album has gone gold by selling more than 15 000 units. 


Though he is a fairly new phenomenon, he has pushed gospel into new melodic territory and has forged an uncommon connection with gospel fans around Africa, whose ears were used to a different kind of gospel. This is an amazing achievement for a brand of gospel that appeals to a certain market. His winning formula is his performances and lyrics that are earnest statements of affection towards the divine. 


His was a long walk to stardom. In 2003, he took part in the Coca-Cola Popstars and made it to the Top 20 in a competition of 16 000 participants. Although he didn’t feature on the overall winners’ group, he was called back for extra training as he was one of the most outstanding talents on Popstars. Through Popstars, he received training and coaching from music veterans. In 2007, he joined award-winning gospel group, Intense, but later took his creative savvy to another level by going solo.  


Dr Tumi, who fellowships at Hillsong Church in Pretoria, is a friendly narrator that pulls his fans through the healing places in his songs. “I write all my songs and I get inspiration from the Spirit of God. This can only come through a relationship with the Creator,” he reveals. Raised in a Christian family, Dr Tumi’s father was a pastor at Assemblies of God. He grew up in Seshego, Limpopo, where two of the dominant forces in his life were music and religion. He says it was the church environment that gave him a platform to be a pianist and singer. “My foundation helped me to be a person that I am. The covering of my parents and church has shaped the person I am,” says Dr Tumi whose mother was a school teacher. 


So successful is his music that Dr Tumi, who is a medical doctor and runs a surgery in Mabopane, north of Pretoria, that he had to shelve his practice and concentrate on his music ministry. His practice is now run by another doctor, but he says he has not abandoned his profession. “I have not been working at my surgery for about six months. When my schedule is not so hectic, I will resume my work again,” he says. His journey to stardom was not easy. He struggled to get a company to sign him because of the kind of gospel he sings. “I am in awe of what God has done with my music ministry. At first, nobody believed that my music would do this well,” he says. “Distributors refused to touch my music saying nobody would buy it because it was too white. Now that my music is doing well, people who rejected it are now begging me to work with them.”  


So popular is his ministry that almost every week he is booked to perform. Maintaining a busy schedule throughout the rest of this year, Dr Tumi is showing no signs of slowing down. He has stellar live concert performances and has shows booked not only in South Africa, but also in the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana. On March 11, Dr Tumi will embark on a national tour dubbed 10 Cities Grand Tour starting in Pretoria. “I am writing two songs for every city. I will tour one city in every province. I will perform the songs live and at the end of the tour I will release a DVD,” says the 34-year-old singer.  


Still, despite all the adulation, Dr Tumi remains a humble man with the most gorgeous personality. He is still in touch with Assemblies of God, the church he grew up in. “I was invited by the elders at Assemblies of God to perform in the church’s National Youth Convention in Thaba-Nchu, Free State,” he says. “Ministering in the church I grew up in was humbling. It brought all the beautiful childhood memories.”  


The married father of three children, Bokamoso (8), Onalerona (3) and Khumoetlile (1), is managed by his wife, Kgaogelo. The two got married in 2008. “I’m in a good space. My wife is the one who takes care of my bookings. It was the best decision I have ever made,” he says.