Cosmas Magaya has been playing the mbira since he was a child. He’s an acclaimed performer and teacher. He was one of the central figures and significant consultants to Dr. Paul Berliner in his 1978 book The Soul of Mbira: Music and Traditions of the Shona People of Zimbabwe.
Magaya’s playing can be heard on the Nonesuch recordings Zimbabwe – The Soul of Mbira: Traditions of the Shona People and Zimbabwe – Shona Mbira Musi. He has toured both Europe and the United States both alone and with other Zimbabwean musicians.
Zimbabwe: The Soul of Mbira (Nonesuch Records World Explorer Series H-72054, 1973) Zimbabwe: Shona Mbira Music (Nonesuch Records World Explorer Series H-72077, 1977), reissued in 2002
Cosmas Magaya Solo (Mbira Recording Library, 1994)
Mbira (Kutsinhira Cultural Arts Center, 1998)
Afamba Apota (Little Elf’s Workshop, 2000)
Mhuri yekwaMagaya (Mbira Recording Library, 2000)
Musimboti (Kutsinhira Cultural Arts Center,2002)
Anoyimba (Little Elf’s Workshop, 2002) Ndangariro, with Beauler Dyoko (2014)
Chiwoniso Maraire spent most of her adolescence in both Zimbabwe and the United States. She was born and raised in Olympia Washington where her famous father Dumisani Maraire lived and taught traditional Shona music between 1972 and 199 and was a renowned stage performer along with her mother Linda Nemarundwe Maraire.
‘Musical instruments were a core element of my childhood. By the age of four I was playing mbira; Tichazomuona my first recording with my parents was released when I was nine ‘ remembered Chiwoniso.
Chiwoniso played and recorded as a child with her father’s marimba groups Dumi and Minanzi and then with Mhuri ya Maraire’ (The Maraire Family). At the age of 15 she returned to Zimbabwe with her family.
In 1994 Peace Of Ebony won the the Best New Group out of Southern Africa award in the Radio France International Discovery contest. P.O.E’s entry ‘Vadzimu’ a song they composed specifically for the competition was a potent mixture of the Shona English and French languages riding over a heavy mbira-laced rhythms. Vadzimu appears on the Putumayo ‘African Grooves‘ compilation.
The success with A Piece of Ebony led her to join Zimbabwe’s leading band Andy Brown and The Storm. It was at that time that her talents as singer and musician blossomed. The Storm achieved huge success both in Zimbabwe and abroad. They played various concerts in Europe and Africa including performances at the SADC Music Festival in Zimbabwe in 1995 and The Masa Festival in Ivory Coast in 1997.
At the same time Chiwoniso continued to write her own music and performed alongside other artists with the support of The Storm. She also embarked on the 2 year General Certificate in music course with the Zimbabwe College of Music and studied sociology as well. She believes that the artist has to flow with the times otherwise the public turns away to follow the latest craze. Keeping with that belief Chiwoniso took up the challenge of learning and playing percussion including the mbira an African thumb piano indigenous to the Shona people of her country.
In Zimbabwe’s old tradition women were not allowed to play the mbira but the bright young star lived in a time where the past and the present must work together to move forward. The mbira she said “Is like a large xylophone. It is everywhere in Africa under different names: sanza kalimba etc. For us in Zimbabwe it is the name for many string instruments. They are many kind of mbiras. The one that I play is called the knuwga-knuwga which means brilliance-brilliance.”
Music had always been a natural element of Chiwoniso’s environment. “My mother performed until she was eight months and half into her pregnancy. I was born in our house. An American-Indian midwife assisted my mother in the delivery. That’s how my parents wanted it to be.” While her parents were teaching music in the downstairs rooms of their home Chiwoniso and her brother would play around with the percussion instruments that were all over the house. “My father never forced us to play music and did not care even if we broke any of the instruments as long as we created our own experience.”
As a vocalist Chiwoniso’s musical gift developed and matured with The Storm over the years and led her to the recording of her first solo CD Ancient Voices for which she received the Decouverte Afrique 98 award presented by R.F.I. (Radio France International) and the French Foreign Office.
In 1998 Chiwoniso won the Radio France International Discovery Competition in her own capacity and signed a contract with Lusafrica resulting in her first CD Ancient Voices recorded and produced by Keith Farquharson.
Ancient Voices was a tremendous success and brought critical acclaim to this talented young Zimbabwean mbira player. Of note was Chiwoniso’s ability to flawlessly interweave English and Shona an ability that has become a strong signature in her work. Ancient Voices is a successful fusion of blues, jazz, reggae and rhythms from Zimbabwe.
Chiwoniso fronted her acoustic group Chiwoniso & Vibe Culture for several years. From 21 to 24 she was also a core member of the multinational all-women’s band Women’s Voice whose original members hailed from Norway Zimbabwe Tanzania America Israel and Algeria.
Her musical collaborations have included recording with Marie Boine Brilliant Kris Kristofferson and Sinead OConnor on the CD celebrating the 1th commemoration of the Nobel Peace Prize Awards composing and performing for the UNDP Africa 215 song project Les Tams-Tams de l’Afrique alongside Salif Keita Habib Koite (Mali) Ismael Lo Youssou Ndour Manu Dibango Baaba Maal (Senegal) Achieng Abura (Kenya) Saintrick and Koffi Olomide (Congo).
She did a huge amount of session work through the years working with artists from around the world in greatly diverse styles. Chiwoniso released an acoustic solo CD Timeless with her group Vibe Culture.
In 2006 Chiwoniso won second place in the World Music category of the International Songwriting Competition. Out of around 15 entries from 82 countries throughout the world two songs from her new album reached the semi-finals – one of which “Rebel Woman’ made it through to the finals and earned her 2nd place.
In September 2008 Chiwoniso released her fourth album and first international album in over ten years Rebel Woman on the Cumbancha label.
Chiwoniso died July 24th, 2013.
A Piece of Ebony: From the Native Tongue (1992) Ancient Voices (Lusafrica/Tinder, 1998)
Chiwoniso & Vibe Culture: Timeless (2004) Rebel Woman (Cumbancha, 2008)
Chartwell Dutiro, Zimbabwean musician and musicologist, lives in Britain. He sings, writes and plays music with his group Spirit Talk Mbira. He also teaches at London University and gives workshops worldwide.
Chartwell Dutiro used traditional music with words in Shona to protest against stale authority and the oppression of colonialism, which has left a strong mark on him. His family was relocated into a protected village when he was very young.
Chartwell Dutiro’s first-name was given to him by missionaries when he was a child, although his original name is Shorai, which means ̶You can underestimate me if you wish”. Chartwell began playing the mbira at four, although the traditional instrument was banned at that time. Later he played the mbira for a spiritualist. He also took up the saxophone.
Just like his instrument, the Mbira, is used to call the spirits during traditional ceremonies, Chartwell Dutiro calls for guidance from the spirits of the soil and sings thatthe oppressors have made it hard to survive, but then the reformer does not swim with the current”. His musical fame spread and, one day, he teamed up with Zimbabwean celebrity Thomas Mapfumo and Blacks Unlimited. This turned into an eight-year musical partnership.
Chartwell has been in Britain for six years. His music emphasizes spirituality but also has political messages. The song ‘Gamura makaka, that he recorded for Refugee Voices ‘ is about old men bossing people around and stale authority. He believes in the power of music: “I think music can bring people together. The moment we start playing music language doesn’t matter, the language is in the music”.
It’s too much, old men bossing people aroundTheir presence is an overbearing weight to our hearts Here, there, and even there, you are the boss!
Since their formation in Bulawayo (Zimbabwe’s second largest city) in 1982, the ten-man choir known as Black Umfolosi has combined performances with educational work all over the world. They use music and dance from Southern Africa to attract people to other cultures and to challenge negative stereotypes about the developing world.
What began as a way of entertaining themselves at school, turned into self-training and then a wider group of eighteen people and a worldwide phenomenon.
Their name is derived from the Umfolosi river in South Africa and they added Black to emphasize their identity. They see their music as a way of renewing their own culture as well as introducing it abroad and add to this process with traditional dances, including the modern miner’s Gumboot dance. They address general human concerns – love, family, spirit, – as well as contemporary problems – wars, apartheid, the environment and AIDS.”
The group have won admires worldwide for their stunning shows, both dance and a cappella, plus their general energy, enthusiasm and humor. Black Umfolosi is much more than a performing group, they are active in training others, particularly the youth, in dance and voice. Black Umfolosi is a community driven organization aiming to give back to the people what they have themselves received.
Unity (World Circuit, 1990) Festival Umdlalo (World Circuit, 1993)
Best of Black Umfolosi: Summertime (ARC Music, 2012)
Yes Lord (2013)
Traditional mbira maestro is set to perform Friday, April 28, 2017 at 8:00 pm at Roulette in New York City. The concert is part of the A World in Trance music series.
This concert of trance-like mbira music will present acclaimed mbira viertuoso Chartwell Dutiro on mbira, lead vocal, and dance. He played at all-night ritual ceremonies (biras) in his native Zimbabwe from the age of four and is best known for his eight-year period with Zimbabwe’s celebrated Thomas Mapfumo & the Blacks Unlimited. He will be joined by his son Shorai Dutiro (mbira, vocal), Glenn West (mbira, vocal), Nora Balaban (mbira, vocal) and Bill Ruyle (hosho – gourds, tabla – tuned drums, percussion).
Zimrock band Mokoomba will be touring the United States during April and May 2017. The band will present its new album, Luyando. The new recording focuses on the acoustic side of the band from Niagara Falls.
The current lineup includes Mathias Muzaza (lead vocals), Ndaba Coster Moyo (drums, backing vocals), Trustworth Samende (lead guitar, backing vocals), Donald Moyo, (keyboards, backing vocals), Miti Mugande, (percussion & backing vocals) and Abundance Mutori (bass, backing vocals).
Mokoomba 2017 Tour Dates
April 28 – New Orleans, LA: New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
April 29-30 – Lafayette, LA: Festival Internationale de Louisiane
May 5 – Baltimore, MD: Patterson Theater
May 6 – Washington, DC: Funk Parade
May 9-14 – Black Mountain NC: The LEAF Festival & residency
May 17 – Marlboro, NY: The Falcon
May 18 – Portsmouth, NH: The Music Hall
May 19 – Boston, MA: Villa Victoria Center f/t Arts
May 21 – Joshua Tree, CA: Joshua Tree Music Festival
The Shona name ‘Siyaya’ means ‘We are on the move’. This high-energy group of musicians, percussionists, vocalists and dancers have offered up some remarkable performances in recent years. Their shows encompass universal themes and traditional stories, interwoven with a passion and a level of humanity deeply rooted in Zimbabwean culture.
The group originated in Bulawayo where they have constantly worked with young people through schools and community programs, nurturing talent and proving that the arts can continue to nourish and sustain communities during political upheavals and instability.
World music act Mokoomba is based in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The band’s six members, Mathias Muzaza (lead vocals), Ndaba Coster Moyo (drums, backing vocals), Trustworth Samende (lead guitar, backing vocals), Donald Moyo, (keyboards, backing vocals), Miti Mugande, (percussion & backing vocals) and Abundance Mutori (bass, backing vocals) grew up as friends in the Chinotimba township.
While the majority of Zimbabweans are part of the dominant Shona ethnic group or the large Ndebele minority, the members of Mokoomba hail from a variety of different ethnic groups represented in this border town, including the Luvale, Nyanja, and Tonga peoples; and it was the Tonga who gave mighty Victoria Falls, the world’s largest waterfall, its original name: “Mosi-oa-Tunya” (the smoke that thunders).
Living in a border city that attracts tourists from all over the world gave Mokoomba’s music an international perspective from the beginning, incorporating everything from soukous to ska and salsa along with local musical traditions.
The members of Mokoomba started playing music as teenagers, with the help of a local bandleader, the late Alfred Mijimba, who gave the young musicians the experience they needed by hiring them to play local concerts with his band. Even though he was never an international star, Mijimba was a respected local musician, and the members of Mokoomba gained substantial experience under his direction.
The group’s members began playing together in 2001, and Mokoomba was officially formed in 2008. Their first major success came that same year, when they won the Music Crossroads Inter-Regional Festival Competition in Malawi.
In 2009 Mokoomba recorded its first album, Kweseka — Drifting Ahead, produced by Dutch DJ Gregor Salto, as part of the Stand UP anti- poverty campaign funded by AfricaUnsigned. The album generated a local hit “Messe Messe”, and the group’s first European tour. Mokoomba recorded a second EP, Umvundla, with Salto in 2011. But their big break came in 2012, when the band released Rising Tide, produced by pioneering Ivoirian bassist Manou Gallo (Zap Mama, Kiyi M’Bock) for the Belgian label ZigZag World.
The success of Rising Tide led Mokoomba to tour over 40 countries worldwide in 2012, 2013 and 2014, including performances at Denmark’s Roskilde festival, the UK’s WOMAD festival, Belgium’s Couleur Cafe´ festival, and Morocco’s Gnawa festival.
Mokoomba has become one of Zimbabwe’s most popular bands, playing with such icons as Hugh Masekela and Baba Maal at Zimbabwe’s annual Harare International Festival of the Arts.
Mokoomba was the subject of a documentary called Mokoomba: From One River Bank to Another, by Frank Dalmat and Francis Ducat. The film tells the group’s story in the context of the relationship between culture and economic development in the global south.
In 2015 Mokoomba recorded its self-produced third album Luyando, a stripped down, mostly acoustic album that balances the group’s love of pan-African and international sounds with the local and traditional sounds they also grew up listening to.
Luyando translates as “Mother’s Love” and takes its inspiration from the Makishi masquerade ritual practiced in parts of Zimbabwe and nearby Zambia, which the members of Mokoomba participated in as boys.
The Makishi masquerade is performed at the end of the Mukanda, an initiation ritual for boys between the ages of eight and twelve, when young boys leave their homes and live for one to three months at a bush camp away from their villages. It’s a fundamental and often lonely time in a boy’s life, when they learn the self-assurance required of young men in their community, while still often yearning for the tenderness of their mother’s love. The end of the Mukanda is marked by a joyous graduation ceremony called Chilende, full of colorful masks, music and dancing.
Sub-Saharan African vocal harmony records are like cats; it’s hard to find an ugly one. Basically, a well-rounded music collection is going to include some recordings from this genre. They’re rich, pretty, intricate and deep, and they’re in languages we don’t speak, so how does one choose one? The cat analogy comes to mind again. How does one choose one from a shelter?
That’s an individual choice … color, name, first impression, resemblance to others experienced in the past … This CD has a thematic strength. It brings out what is, to the singers, loved and respected about Africa and what is desired and needed for that arguably most tragic of continents. There are gentle pleas to children to be and do better than their predecessors and those of all other regions to make the potential of Africa a reality.
This is a short review because the record is about a very few though very large ideas, not because it does not deserve long attention. Please look for it.
Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music