Father Emmanuel Ribeiro died in this morning at the St Anne’s Hospital in Harare at the age of 86. With a music career of over sixty years, Ribeiro was a composer and novelist who composed over 17 Roman Catholic Church songs and penned Novels like Muchadura, Tonderai, and Ndakaitei.
Born in 1935 in Chivhu, he attended Kutama Mission, Gokomere and Gweru Teachers’ College. He studied Theology at Chishawasha Mission before enrolling for a Master’s Degree at Bloomington College of Music in the USA.
He was a correspondent for BBC and authored Shona epilogues for the Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation’s African Service for two years.
Some of his compositions include Mambo Mwari Wa masimba and Tauya Nozvipo Zvo Mupiro. He introduced vernacular songs and African musical instruments into the Catholic Church in the 1960s. He was at the forefront of the global movement to make the mass locally relevant and understandable to the ordinary person. At the time, all catholic mass services were conducted in Latin.
He also assisted Robert Mugabe and Edgar Tekere’s escape to Mozambique. He sheltered Mugabe and Enos Nkala when they had been just released by Smith as outlaw Political prisoners after 12 years, at his manse at Rhodesville Roman Catholic Church in 1975.
In 2019, he was part of a group of religious leaders under the banner of the National Elders Forum (NEF) that called for the removal of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe ahead of October 25 which was declared by SADC as a day to protest against the sanctions.
The first Roman Catholic Church song he composed, Gamuchirai Mambo mupiro uyu came in 1961 and continues to be sung today. His other popular compositions include Alleluia munyika dzose, Tauya nezvipo zvemupiro, Mambo Mwari wamasimba, Hwayana yaMwari, Mwari Ngaarumbidzwe amongst others. He also headed of the committee which penned Zimbabwe’s national anthem and was part of the committee that designed Zimbabwe’s national flag.