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Dr Tumi goes big at gospel extravaganza at Loftus

Dr Tumi's Gathering of Worshippers is set to fill Loftus Stadium in Pretoria.
Dr Tumi's Gathering of Worshippers is set to fill Loftus Stadium in Pretoria.

Go big or go home - and we are not on about Somizi Mhlongo and Mohale Motaung's traditional wedding extravaganza.

We are talking about Dr Tumi's formidable third annual Gathering of Worshippers where 50,000 concertgoers are expected to fill Loftus Stadium in Pretoria tomorrow.

Sowetan caught up with the 38-year-old gospel megastar days before the momentous event that will feature guest performers such as American stars Fred Hammond and Bishop Cortez Vaughn, as well as local musicians Khuli Chana and Jaziel Brothers.

Dr Tumi, real name Tumisang Makweya, has always been good at dreaming his own reality. In the first year of the gathering, he easily clocked 20,000 ticket sales.

Last year, 30,000 attended the event at the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria.

"I think 50,000 is not 100,000. We did 30,000 last year, maybe we can do 75,000 next year and then 100,000 the year after that," he says.

"My aim is not to go lower, it's to grow. I want to keep pushing myself. I have never had guests in gatherings and it's the first time. I don't have singing nerves, but my worst nightmare is always losing my voice on the day.

"I once did a show in Polokwane and I was on medication. I forgot that one of the side effects was that they dry your throat and I took them an hour before I went on stage. After the first song, I could tell it's going to be a long night. But I got through it," Dr Tumi says.

He admits that he has not been sleeping well as planning continues. He points out that three hours of sleep is "normal" for him because he has been living with chronic insomnia for years.

Mental health awareness is very important to Dr Tumi as he has lived with depression almost all his life. He says he's in a better place now and has not had suicidal thoughts in 14 years.

Dr Tumi will also record a live DVD on the night, featuring a lot of new material from his latest album, Love on the Cross.

The 20-track album is his favourite record yet and features the likes of Hammond, Chana and the Ndlovu Youth Choir from Limpopo.

"I grew up listening to him [Hammond]. I never thought it will come this soon that I already have him on my album," he shares.

"The album is more me than anything that I have ever done. I was really creative and very hands-on with its production.

"I hardly listen to my music but I listen to this album from beginning to end."

Born in Seshego, Limpopo, he's the youngest of six siblings. He grew up in church - very quiet and shy - since both his parents are pastors.

His dad bought him his first keyboard when he was eight and he wrote his first song at 11. After high school he studied medicine at Medunsa.

In his third year of study, he secretly auditioned for reality competition show Coca-Cola Pop Stars - the season that was won by Adilah.

But he got the chop after the top 16 because dance instructor Lorcia Cooper said he was a terrible dancer.

"I was happy to leave because I was scared. The more I went further in the competition the more I realised what's going to happen if I win this thing. I would have to quit my studies. Lorcia saved my life," he jokingly says.

For years he practiced as a medical doctor and neglected his love for music. With his mammoth success it's hard to believe that it was only four years ago that he decided to pursue music full-time.