Gift Tshuma – a Montrealer born in Zimbabwe, doesn’t self-identify as your ordinary R&B Gospel singer. Gift is the co- founder and leader of his ensemble: United Tribulation Choir, which he founded twelve years ago. He is a strong supporter of diversity, and he extends his reach by singing in multiple languages and performing in a broad array of styles including beatboxing and live looping.
Gift carries with him more than fifteen years of experience as a profession artist, in addition to his academic background in music. He has trained in classical and jazz vocals, and was mentored by Oliver Jones: a Montreal-based jazz pianist who was in turn trained by Oscar Peterson.
As a disability rights advocate and co-founding member of a grassroots group: Accessibilize Montreal, he has worked on numerous initiatives targeting discriminatory infrastructure, that stigmatises and excludes people with diverse bodies and minds from public spaces.
Research and Development
Technology is integral in Gift’s everyday music making. Depending on the mood you catch him in, he may or may not identify himself as a MacGyver-type character — some days relishing the thrill of hacking his own tools, but more often than not, it’s more about just making music.
To create scores for composition and arrangement projects, Gift often sings into Melodyne — a piece of software designed for tracking and correcting pitch — and exports the results into a more traditional notation package.
In addition to his demanding rehearsal schedule, Gift is currently working on instrument access and pushing for more inclusive workshop formats within our next activities. At the heart of this approach: starting from people’s own lived experience and recognising the access they might have already built for themselves in other areas of life.
We are collaborating on the instrumentmaker.org project to create tools that more people can use in a free and open-source framework.
During our R&D process in London, Gift collaborated with Charles Matthews to develop a light-based performance system. What started as an attempt to hack a joystick has morphed into a full-blown dance, light, and live coding performance.
In its current form, this setup uses one of our BtB boards as a live looper, which he controls by shining headlights mounted on his wheelchair into a set of light sensors.
You can experience some of the results from the first day of development in the videos below:
Watch the latest episode of #CripTalkCorner here:
Seasons Change — the first release by United Tribulation Choir — is available on Apple Music: