Dr. Thomas “Mukanya” Mapfumo became a star as Zimbabwe entered its revolution in the mid 1970s. His musical radio messages speaking out against political and social tyranny led to his arrest in 1979 by the white Rhodesian government. After his release from prison Thomas and his band performed at concerts celebrating the return of black rule in 198 ending decades of oppression. Thomas is a real voice of the people and remains a worldwide musical and political hero to the present day.
Thomas Tafirenyika Mukanya Mapfumo was born on July 2nd 1945 in the town of Marondera in Zimbabwe. He learned to play music at an early age. His mother was a talented musician and his grandparents would hold all-night parties featuring traditional instruments such as the drums and mbiras.
Thomas Mapfumo plays a style of music that is known as chimurenga. Chimurenga is a Shona word that means struggle. The term was invented by Mapfumo to describe a style of music that combined Shona roots music based on the mbira with modern instruments and his critical socio-political messages. He leads a large band called Black Unlimited.
In January of 2001 he moved temporarily to the United States. That same year he was given an honorary doctorate degree by Ohio State University (USA). Eventually the move to the United States became permanent. He now resides in Eugene, Oregon.
Shumba (Earthworks, 1990)
Gwindingwi Rine Shumba (Chimurenga Music, 1981)
Mabasa (Chimurenga Music, 1983)
Ndangariro (Afro Soul, 1983)
Chimurenga For Justice (Rough Trade, 1985)
Mr Music (Africa) (Afro Soul, 1985)
Zimbabwe Mozambique (Chimurenga Music, 1988) Chamunorwa (Chimurenga Music, 1989)
Varombo Kuvarombo (Chimurenga Music, 1989)
Corruption (Mango, 1989)
Chimurenga Masterpiece (Chimurenga Music, 1990)
Hondo (Chimurenga Music, 1991)
Chimurenga International (Chimurenga Music, 1993)
Roots Chimurenga (Chimurenga Music, 1996)
Chimurenga ’98 (Anonymous Web Productions, 1998)
Live at El Rey (Anonymous Web Productions, 1999) Chimurenga Explosion (Anonymous Web Productions, 2000) Rise Up (Real World Records, 2006)
Live @ The Sanctuary for Independent Media (Chimurenga Music, 2016)
Stella Rambisai Chiweshe is one of the first African women to enter the male dominated world of the mbira.
Stella Chiweshe was born in Mujumi Village, Mhondoro in 1946. She started to sing when she was very young, herding cattle with her grandfather. She learned how to play the mbira in 1966 just as her deceased grandfather had prophesized. At the beginning, she performed in Zimbabwe as a ritual musician during funerals weddings and other ceremonies.
In 1974 she had a hit with single “Kassahwa,” which reached gold status.
During the 1980s, Stella Chiweshe toured worldwide working as an actress and a solo dancer with the National Dance Company of Zimbabwe.
Stella Chiweshe is now married to a German citizen and spends most of her time in the central European nation. In Germany she teaches mbira and dance.
Dumisani “Ramadu” Moyo was born on the 26th of June in 1975. He started his career as a professional musician in 199 in Bulawayo, in the South of Zimbabwe.
Ramadu´s original name ´Dumisani´ means ´to praise´ and the family name ´Moyo´ means ´heart´. When he started his solo career he chose Ramadu as his artistic name the name however does not have a special meaning to Ndebele language speakers it simply comes out of the nickname for Dumisani, known as D-u-m-a-r-a when spelled backwards.
At an early age, when he attended the Mzlikazi Primary School he discovered his bond to the traditional music and dance of his country. Ramadu’s first teacher was the well-known Kalanga singer and dancer Mr. Malaba who used to visit schools to teach and revive traditional music and dance. At the same time the world famous Ladysmith Black Mambazo were a model for Ramadu and had great influence on his music.
After working unsuccessfully as a handyman in different companies, Ramadu decided to make music his career this had always been one great ambition. In 1990 he joined the cappella group Insingizi Emnyama where he sang bass and lead vocals.
Ramadu recorded his first solo album “Izambulelo” (which means Revelations) in the summer of 2001 which was released by ARC Music Int. in January 2002. It presents a mixture self-composed and traditional songs from home town combining modern sounds. Lyrics are written mostly in Ndebele language – Ramadu’s mother tongue. His focus is to develop and popularise the traditional music of his culture and make it more accessible to other cultures.
In the fall of 2010 Ramadu formed The Afro-Vibes who support him live on stage. The combination consists of excellent musicians from different cultural origin who manage to blend characteristics of Western popular music West African Makosa and South African Isicathamiya.
Ndebele has some similarities with the South African Zulu language such as the “clicks” which can be heard in Miriam Makeba´s songs. As well as the language, the music of the hometown of Ramadu is very much influenced by South African music.
Louis Mhlanga was born November 1, 1956. He is a South Africa-based Zimbabwean award-winning guitarist and producer. Mhlanga taught himself playing the guitar at a tender age and is considered one of the best Southern African guitarists.
Mhlanga’s career began in the 1970s. Fronting many bands in Zimbabwe he mixed American and Zimbabwean influences into his music. Mhlanga became renowned for his guitar skills and worked with Zimbabwean acts such as Shaka Talking Drum Ilanga Mudzimu and Oliver Mtukudzi. Louis eventually headed to South Africa to pursue different musical opportunities leading to collaborations with renowned South African artists such as Hugh Masekela Ray Phiri Sipho Mabuse Mlunhgisi Gegane and Busi Mhlongo.
He has produced albums byThomas Mapfumo NigerianKing Sunny Ade South African musician Vusi Mahlasela and many other artists. A former director of musical theatre Mhlanga also ran Zimbabwe’s Ethnomusicology Trust where he was in charge of developing national teaching programs for traditional and contemporary Zimbabwean music. He also spent a year in the Netherlands. As the musician-in-residence at the Royal Dutch Conservatory of Music Mhlanga taught African guitar courses and eventually recorded an album with bassist Eric Van Der Westen.
Insingizi Emnyama was established in 1987 at Sobukhazi Secondary School and specialised in the Ladysmith Black Mambazo style of music Mbube and traditional dances like Indlamu Isitshikitsha and ´Gumboot dance´.
In the early 1990s Insingizi Emnyama became famous in their home country through staging concerts nationally and winning several prizes. In the summer of 1995 Insingizi Emnyama were invited to do concert tours in Austria, Slovenia and Denmark. In the same year they recorded their first album which was a hit on Zimbabwean radio with the hit single ´Sugar Daddy´ in Denmark. The song is about an elderly promiscuous businessman who contracts AIDS. “Sugar Daddy” deliberately infects young unsuspecting girls whom he attracts with cash and his Mercedes Benz. His motto: “I can´t die alone so let me fix others.” In 1996 another album called Sihlale Sonke was released followed by Sengikhumbula (1997).
After the successful participation in a festival called Sura Za Afrika which took place in almost all provinces of Austria in the summer of 1996 the group decided to be officially based in Graz, Austria. The group members started to study music theory and different western music instruments such as piano, violin, accordion, etc.
The aim of the musicians was to build their own Cultural Arts Center and School in Zimbabwe where young artists could learn and improve their skills. The idea was to promote arts and culture in and outside of Zimbabwe providing employment and creating bridges with other countries by cultural exchange programmes. In April 2000 the group visited Zimbabwe to prepare the construction of the center unfortunately political problems and economic hardships made it impossible to begin the first phase of the proposed Arts center.
The group financed the stay in Austria through successful performances all over Austria and in Germany. Insingizi Emnyama has been engaged in projects on stage and in studios with famous Austrian and international musicians.
For their LP Bridges (1999) Insingizi Emnyama used instrumental accompaniment (guitars, keyboards, saxophones, etc.) for the first time but unfortunately this album was not successful in comparison with the previous a cappella and percussion recordings.
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)
Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music including folk, roots and various types of global fusion