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cd cover Stella Chiweshe
Talking Mbira

She has been called the queen of the modern mbira, a revolutionary and a visionary, and this 2002 recording proves the accolades are not misplaced. Working both in small and large ensemble with voices, percussion, bass and marimbas setting the tone, Chiweshe continues to stretch the borders of the music without ever breaking the roots.

Listen!
Chachimurenga
Ndangariro
Uchiseka

"Talking Mbira is a feast of mesmerising solo mbira tunes, catchy dance tracks with frenetic marimba playing, all deeply connected to the roots of Stella's heartland, Zimbabwe." - Jennifer Byrne, RootsWorld (Read the complete interview)

See also:
Oliver Mutukudzi
Thomas Mapfumo
Stella Chiweshe
More music from Zimbabwe

Stella Chiweshe
"When I first listened to the mbira sound, I wanted to hear more and more. I could not stop it, I was sick until I learned to play, so I could hear these sounds." - Stella Rimisai Chiweshe

Zimbabwe's foremost Mbira player, Stella Rimbisai Chiweshe - " The Queen of Mbira" - blends haunting mbira lines with percussion and call & response singing behind her evocative vocals. She sings and plays songs of liberation, spiritual experience and social commentary. The effect is the mbira dzaVadzimu, the classic Zimbabwean thumb-piano, which is a medium for playing songs handed down from generation to generation for centuries and for maintaining contact with the spirits of the Shona people. The Mbira consists of 22 to 28 metal keys mounted on a hardwood soundboard and is usally placed inside a large gourd resonator (deze). The keys are played with the two thumbs plucking down and the right forefinger plucking up.

In traditional Zimbabwe Shona culture, people keep on being part of the community even after their death. At special ceremonies they are called down by the sounds of the mbira, and possess a person through whom they communicate with the gathered people. Stella Chiweshe afterwards does not even remember what had been sung through her. Sometimes the words are such a deep Shona that only few - mostly old - people know them or even understand their meaning. For Stella the songs come as visions and dreams into her playing mbira.

When Zimbabwe was still the white settler's 'Rhodesia', Stella started to receive underground recognition as a musician and medium at these kind of ceremonies. After playing all night in forbidden meetings she then returned to her daytime struggle of survival as a maid in a colonial household. After independence she was invited to become a member of the newly founded "National Dance Company of Zimbabwe", where she soon played a leading role as solo mbira player, dancer and performer. After her controversial performance of "Mbuya Nehanda", Zimbabwe's national heroine in the first Chimurenga war, she decided to break away to live the life of an artist and woman according to her own rules, something unseen before in her home country. Since then Stella has experimented with transferring the mbira music into a Western performance context without losing her close relationship to the tradition.

The Mbira Queen of Zimbabwe has come a long way from the secret gatherings of colonial times to the stages of the world. Besides her successful international performing and recording career she has worked for theatre and film. She not only introduced the combination of mbira and marimba into the modern Zimbabwe soundscape, but she is the only woman in her home country who leads her own band, and is in control of her own equipment and transport, an achievement only those, who know under what kind of horrifying conditions female musicians normally work in Africa, can understand. She took a leading role in the formation of the Zimbabwe Musicians Union, and since 1993 she is director of the Mother Earth Trust - Network Of Female Artists in Zimbabwe.

 
Kumusha
Stella Rambisai Chiweshe - Vocals, mbira, ngoma, clapping
Chinembiri Chidodo - Mbira, ngoma, vocals
Leonard Ngwenya - Ngoma, backing vocals
Gilson Mangoma - Hosho, vocals
Eric Makokora - Clapping, vocals
Gordon Mapika - Clapping, vocals
Job Muteswa - Clapping, vocals

Shungu:
Stella Rambisai Chiweshe - Vocals, mbira, ngoma
Virginia Mukwesha - Mbira, hosho, backing vocals
Gilson Mangoma - Marimba (alto), backing vocals
Henry Matimba - Marimba (soprano), backing vocals
Joshua Gumisai Mufunde - Guitar
Ephraim Saturday - Bass, backing vocals
Maruva Chikwatari - Hosho, ngoma
Albert Ruwizhi - Drums, backing vocals

Ndizvozvo:
Stella Rambisai Chiweshe - Vocals, mbira, ngoma, chiwitsa, clapping
Virginia Mukwesha - Mbira, hosho, clapping, backing vocals
Leonard Ngwenya - Marimba (soprano), backing vocals
Samson Mirazi - Marimba (baritone), backing vocals
David Tapfuma - Marimba (baritone)
Joshua Arekata - Bass guitar
Tonderai Zinyau - Drum kit

Chisi:
Stella Rambisai Chiweshe - Vocals, mbira, ngoma, chiwitsa, clapping
Virginia Mukwesha - Mbira, hosho, clapping, backing vocals
Leonard Ngwenya - Marimba (soprano), backing vocals
Samson Mirazi - Marimba (baritone), backing vocals
David Tapfuma - Marimba (baritone)
Joshua Arekata - Bass guitar
Tonderai Zinyau - Drum kit

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