Female Mbira Players to Host Discussion At Book Café

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Harare’s Book Café in collaboration with Mbiravolution will be hold an Artists Voices Discussion on Wednesday focussed on female mbira players. The discussion will focus on the role that female mbira players have played in advancing mbira in Zimbabwe.

Speakers for the discussion will be legendary mbira songbird and icon Chiwoniso Maraire, Theresa Muteta a young female mbira player, music educator and researcher,  Hector Rufaro Mugani an ethnomusicologist and Chikwata.263 mbira player while other discussants are lined up.

The discussion will be moderated by Extra-Blessings Kuchera a musicologist and arts administrator. All respected and experienced professionals with a good knowledge of mbira and the arts. Other female mbira players like Hope Masike (currently on a world tour), Onai Mtizva (currently in Namibia) are going to send their presentations on their experiences as female mbira players.

Many people have misconceptions about the emergence of female mbira players and therefore their importance is diminished. One thing for sure is that women were denied the opportunity to play the mbira even if they had a passion for it. This also applies to other traditional instruments which were mainly male dominated.

Many women now play the mbira on local, regional and international platforms where they showcase their work. Names such as Stella Chiweshe, Beular Dyoko, Patience Chaitezvi, Chiwoniso Maraire, and Hope Masike among others have made significant strides in this respect.

Extra–Blessings Kuchera, Pamberi Trust Communications Projects officer who is organizing the discussion said “The discussion will highlight the significance of the mbira instrument and music in Zimbabwe and beyond. It will mainly focus on the emergence of female mbira players and their immense contribution to the development of mbira instrument and music, the music industry and the Zimbabwean community. We should continue to encourage such positive development.”

The discussion comes when many Zimbabweans are celebrating September as the mbira month an initiative by the mbira centre, to celebrate and raise appreciation of the mbira.

Victor Kunonga Working On New Album

HARARE,Zimbabwe – Award-winning Afro-beat musician, Victor Kunonga is currently busy working on a new album. The singer songwriter revealed that he has already been performing most of the songs on the new album at his public performances.

“The focus is on polishing the songs until they’re ready for the studion. We have been performing the songs regulalrly and the response has been great,” he said.”Hopefully by June, well get into the studio to record a new album. I tell you, the respoinse has been so great and people are already asking for the album”

The self taught acoustic guitarist added that the album does not have a name yet but the sound will be highly afrocentric as is the trademark of his music.

“The album is going to have a very authentic afrocentric acoustic feel. There is going to be a lot of mbira and collaboration with a number of local and other African artists,” Kunonga said.

“We’re contemplating doing a double CD but we’ll cross the bridge when we get there. However, we are going to have no less than 12 tracks on the album.We can preety much already see the success of the album even before we’ve launched it.”

Rap Legend Heavy D Dies At 44

Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Rap legend, Heavy D – one of the most influential rappers of the ’90s – born Dwight Arrington Myers, has died. He was 44. According to news reports, a representative confirmed Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011 that the singer and former leader of Heavy D & the Boyz died.  Apparently, the rapper was suffering from pneumonia.

Entertainment news outlet, TMZ.com reported that Heavy D had just returned from shopping and walked up some stairs when he began having trouble breathing.

Heavy D had several massive hits — including “Now That We Found Love.” He also wrote and performed the theme song for “In Living Color” … and appeared as an actor in the movie “Life.”

Abra Simzz: Music is in my blood

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – US-based Zimbabwean music producer of popular Jamaican musician, Red Rat’s monster track “Rise Up Zimbabwe,” Simukai Mandizvidza, aka, Abra Simzz revealed that music is the passion of his life in an exclusive interview with the international online magazine, iZiviso.com.

“Music is in my blood. It’s largely influenced by the reggae and dancehall movement as well as Bob Marley,” said the music producer who is currently working on a mixtape featuring Winky D, Badman, King Shaddy, Sniper Storm and Lady B among others.

Simzz said that he developed a strong friendship with Red Rat while working on the mega-hit “Rise Up Zimbabwe.” In 2009, he sent an email to Red Rat and suggesting the idea of the son which the musician gladly welcomed. Working with his KU-based cousin and music partner, Jusa Dementor, he presented some beats to Red Rat who then developed the lyrics for the cong.

“Red Rat was my favourite artist growing up so it was a real pleasure to work with him on the project. We developed a lot of camaradie and friendship. He also had some deep knowledge about the state of Zimbabwe from a documentary that he had watched which made it all the easier t collaborate with him,” said Simzz.

“Rise Up Zimbabwe has been like a movement. Internationally, it’s got attention. It’s a party vibe that is quite uplifting,” he added.

While Red Rat composed the lyrics, Simzz and Dementor helped in providing some pointer to make the song relevant to Zimbabweans.  Apart from producing Red Rat, in the last two yers, Simzz has been producing works that have received rave reviews in the UK, US and Malaysia.

Simzz is also a founding director of ABRA Tribe, a project aimed at identifying and nurturing Zimbabwean talent, and marketing it to the world. ABRA currently has 25 representatives around the world.

“ABRA is a brand with music as the basis. But we are also into modelling, clothing and we are also aiming to get into the movie industry. Our model has worked by working with Zimbabweans in the diaspora in trying to market the Zimbabwean brand to the world,” Simzz said, adding that ABRA is working to penetrate the Zimbabwean market through a message of unity and patriotism.

Simzz dismissed the idea that reggae music is neither African nor lucrative.

“Reggae is from Africa, its about the drum and the bass. The true Rastafarian focuses on Africa. That’s why individuals like Bob Marley don’t hesitate to sing about Africa,” he said. “I feel Zimbabwean dancehall is growing, it is driving young people. Al we trying to do is to raise the flag – to put Zimbabwe on the map.”

He added that the brand of their music was consciously pro-Zimbabwen, and focused on positive things.

“Our whole drive is patriotism for Zimbabwe and unity. It certainly something that we are conscious about. We are trying to sell the Zimbabwean brand to the world as truly, original Zimbabwean brand,” he said.

Mbira Queen, Punk Band Collaborate in Adam Chisvo Tribute

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – In an unprecedented musical collaboration, mbira queen, Chiwoniso Maraire, and mbira-punk rock band, chikwata.263, will host a joint performance at the Book Cafe on Saturday in honour of Adam Chisvo who died early this week.

“The show is being dedicated to the memory of the late great Adam Chisvo, Chiwoniso’s former mbira player and percussionist and a legend of Zimbabwean music. Proceeds from the show have been pledged to help Chisvo’s family. time. His family needs a lot of support; Adam left behind three boys who are going to school and a wife,” said Tsungi Zvobgo, Chiwoniso’s manager.

The show which promises to be one 2011’s most exciting gigs will see Chiwoniso amalgamate the versatility and beauty of her voice with chikwata.263’s experimental type of mbira, punk and rock fusion.

Singer, songwriter, and mbira player, Chiwoniso, will be performing fresh from her successful tour to South America and will be collaborating with the punk bank band for the first time.

chikwata.263, a collaborative enterprise of four young musicians fusing authentic Zimbabwean traditional instruments and punk sound, has been making waves in Harare’s underground music scene.

The band was formed at The Book Cafe’s Monday night Open Mic sessions in December and has already collaborated with several artists including John Pfumojena, Alexio Kawara, Zimbeats (USA), Andy Brown and has played alongside reggae outfit Mathias Julius & X-VBYZ, reggae aficionados, Transit Crew as well as the sensational Victoria Falls band, Mokoomba.

Their brand of ethno-cosmopolitan beats has wowed music fans in the shows they have featured so far. The four musicians in the band include Tomasi (punk guitar), Hector Rufaro (lead mbira), Shiloh (bass guitar), and Blessing (drums).

“We’re putting rock effects on mbira, working on the continuity and change of the mbira sound,” said Hector Rufaro, the band’s mbira player.

Tomasi said that the band was trying to craft a new repertoire of music in Zimbabwe utilizing a myriad of local musical influences to give the mbira a new sound.

“Once upon a time people said that the spirits will talk through the mbira but they did not listen. Now the spirits are shouting through our music,” Tomasi.

Mbira Icon, Adam Chisvo, Dies

Harare, Zimbabwe – Adam Chisvo, one of Zimbabwe’s leading mbira players, has died. He was aged 48. He leaves behind a wife and three sons.  In a telephone interview, Chisvo’s widow, Priscilla, revealed that the popular mbira musician died at Harare Hospital Wednesday morning due to high levels of sugar diabetes.

Chisvo, who produced an eleven track album, titled “Famba Pore Pore” in 2009, backed about any musician that counts in Zimbabwe’s fledgling music industry. He played with Oliver Mtukudzi, Victor Kunonga, Chiwoniso, Taku Mafika, Willom Tight, Charles Summerfield, Busi Ncube and many others simply too many to mention.

“He was a real tower in the local music industry. We’ve lost a giant. That’s what I can say. Adam worked with a lot of people. We’ve lost so much. He did a lot both locally and outside our borders. He was a great person; he was always willing to impart his knowledge, experience and skills to the upcoming generation. He will surely be missed,” said Afro jazz maestro, Victor Kunonga, who has been working with Chisvo for the past five years.

“From his early days with Ilanga up until today, Adam was always willing to work with everyone, including half of the musicians that make up the industry in Zimbabwe today.”

According ZimboJam.com, from his early experiences with Ilanga, through to his long term association with Andy Brown and the Storm, and leading into his succesful partnership with Chiwoniso Maraire, Chisvo provided the essential backbone to legendary musical groups.

Chisvo’s exploits in the local music industry, particularly his refining of how the mbira instrument is played, certainly qualify him as a hero and an icon of of our times.

“This is really shocking news to me. Chisvo was a good friend and uncle but most importantly a mentor to many of us young artists in the music industry. He was always willing to share knowledge and even learn despite that you are younger than him. We have really lost another fountain of knowledge,” said Taku Mafika, a talented mbira player.

Chisvo is credited with taking mbira to a new level, experimenting with the instrument and giving it a new lease of life outside its traditional and spiritual strictures. Apart from his music, Chisvo will be remembered for his easy-going nature and affability – he was never short of a smile.

“He was a very soft-hearted man. He carried himself with so much humility, he was a great artist who never liked outshining his juniors even if he could, it’s a huge loss to the fratenity,” said Novell Zwangendaba, a local arts journalist.