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Sample Track 1:
"Ndabaiwa" from Talking Mbira (Piranha)
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Talking Mbira (Piranha)
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CD Review

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Stella Chiweshe
Talking Mbira:
Spirits of Liberation
Piranha CD-PIR1681 (2002)

Talking Mbira is the first new album in seven years for Zimbabwean musician, composer, and singer Stella Chiweshe. Her instrument of choice is the mbira (thumb piano), and the liner notes relate that Chiweshe "not only introduced the combination of mbira and marimba into the modern Zimbabwe soundscape, but she is the only woman in her home country to lead her own band." Joining her on most of the 10 selections is an ensemble that includes two marimba players and a bevy of percussionists, plus a guitarist, synthesizer player, and bass guitarist. "Uchiseka" ("Laugh About It") features a steady, mid-tempo beat with call-and-response vocals by Chiweshe and an answering male chorus, all supported by a full mosaic of instrumentalists. Electric guitars and drums combine with a fast tempo in the insistent, driving "Mania" ("Respectful Hands"), a good number for dancing. "Ndangariro" (Memories"), an instrumental in memory of Chiweshe's late brother Elfigio, is rich with mbira, marimbas, and percussion weaving in and out of one another, and the experience reminds me of both a swiftly moving stream and an aural kaleidoscope turning 'round and 'round. A call-and-response a cappella offering about the deceased whose souls have become "Spiritual Lion" ("Paite Rima") and the soothing opening track, which highlights Chiweshe's singing and playing over minimal backing, add even more variety to this mesmerizing CD.

--Al Riess (Buffalo, NY) 

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