31/08/2018A Collection Of Early Singles By Zimbabwean Mbira Master Stella Chiweshe

"I am a rebel," smiles the 70-year-old Zimbabwean legend Stella Chiweshe, a breath-taking artist and performer also known as "The Queen of Mbira". Having spent her childhood surrounded by American Rock’n’Roll and Country by artists the likes of Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, Jim Reeves, and The Everly Brother, she at first showed little interest in local traditional music. That is until she took a liking to the Mbira, "an instrument consisting of 22 to 28 metal keys mounted on a wooden healing tree body." 

But Mbira also refers to "an ancient mystical music, which has been played for over a thousand years by the Shona people. Its most important function is as a 'telephone to the spirits of people, water, trees, stones and birds,' used to contact both deceased ancestors and tribal guardians, at all-night ceremonies."  Even though Stella Chiweshe eventually turned into "an avid student of the instrument and the philosophy connected to it", playing Mbira music was not considered a suitable activity for women in the British colony of Rhodesia. Thus, no one was willing to teach her, much less build an instrument for her. 

She ended up recording her very first single "Kasahwa" (1974) on a borrowed thumb piano and became a local sensation. After Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, Stella Chiweshe began touring internationally and gained further acclaim, first as a soloist for the new "National Dance Company of Zimbabwe", then under her own name. Now considered a true African music icon, Stella Chiweshe lives between Zimbabwe and Germany, with Berlin being her second home.  

On September 14th, Glitterbeat Records will release a captivating collection of her early singles, remastered by Nick Robbins from London’s Sound Mastering studio. The eight "impossible-to-find" recordings on "Kasahwa" span the period from 1974-1983 and have never been officially released outside of Africa.

Listen to "Mayaya (Part 1 & 2)" in the SoundCloud player above or the video below. There will be an exclusive record release concert taking place at YAAM Berlin on September 13th

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom