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"Ndabaiwa" from Talking Mbira (Piranha)
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Talking Mbira (Piranha)
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The 10 Best International CDs of 2002

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Plenty of artists claim to play "trance music," but Zimbabwe's Stella Chiweshe delivers the genuine article. Portions of her repertoire come straight from the religious rituals of the Shona people, and audience members at her concerts have claimed spontaneous healings or visits from spirits in response to the beautiful melodies she coaxes from her mbira "thumb piano." Even if you don't experience supernatural effects, a few moments of Chiweshe's delicate but powerful playing will surely raise your bliss levels by a factor of 10. She pioneered the practice of blending mbiras and marimbas in ensemble performances and is the most famous woman band leader in Zimbabwe. Talking Mbira shows her in full command of her talents. The nicely balanced blend of material ranges from the tradition-based opening song "Ndabaiwa" to modern fare like "Chachimurenga," a chimurenga liberation song that gets a "Future Mix" dub-style treatment courtesy of Hijaz Mustapha of the 3 Mustaphas 3. Inspired by dream visits from her late brother, Elfigio, Chiweshe layers her meditative mbira on "Ndangariro" for a densely interwoven sound more intricate than a tapestry. "Paite Rima," a plea for world peace addressed to potent lion spirits, eschews instrumentation for stirring vocal harmonies reminiscent of Zulu songs, while "Tapera" uses deeply textured mbira and a distant chorus to lament the natural disasters and political turmoil of her home country. --Bob Tarte.
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