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"Ndabaiwa" from Talking Mbira (Piranha)
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Talking Mbira (Piranha)
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Stella Chiweshe
Born: 1946, near Harare, Zimbabwe

One of Zimbabwe's few female mbira (thumb piano) players, Stella Rambisai Chiweshe grew up in the forest region of Mhondoro. As a child, Chiweshe says, "I was always making a rhythm--on the door, on a dish--I played it on everything. I also liked to sing very much, and loud." Fascinated by music, Chiweshe began drumming at eight and first attended an mbira ceremony at the age of sixteen. At the time, local missionaries called mbira music "Satan's work." And even when Chiweshe moved with her mother to a province where mbira players lived, musicians did not want to teach a young girl. Eventually, Chiweshe received the blessing of a family ancestor spirit and began to play, despite being told that no man would marry an mbira player. In 1974, her first single "Kasahwa" did so well that Chiweshe developed a bad case of stage fright. She refused to play mbira on stage until 1984, when her musical career began in earnest. Today, Chiweshe records both traditional and pop records. She works between homes in Germany and Zimbabawe. Her late '80s record Ambuya?, a collaboration with British musicians, presents a spirited mbira pop sound quite different from the one Thomas Mapfumo and his followers have developed in Zimbabwe.

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