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"Quote"
"When I first listened to the sound of mbira music, I wanted to hear more and more of it.  I could not stop it but then nobody could not play for me as much as I wanted. I was ill for two years, suffering from a very painful heart that vanished the day that I learned how to play."

Stella Rambisai Chiweshe, the Mbira Queen of Zimbabwe
Her Majesty - The Queen of Mbira Music from Zimbabwe - like Stella Rambisai Chiweshe is often called, is the first female artist who gained in prestige and has been honored with recognition in a music tradition that's been dominated by men: in Mbira music - known as the backbone of Zimbabwean music.
She is one of the few musicians in Zimbabwe and Southern Africa, who since more than 35 years is working in the role of traditional Mbira musician. When Zimbabwe was still a Rhodesian colony, Stella secretly was recognized as a Mbira player at forbidden ceremonies. Before independence Mbira instruments had to be kept hidden, because the colonial government had declared the whole country as a Christian land, traditional instruments and songs were banned. Playing Mbira was punished with prison. After playing through the whole night at forbidden reunions, Stella then returned to her every-day-struggle of survival as a young girl within a colonial environment.

Stella Rambisai Chiweshe is nicknamed "Ambuya Chinyakare" (Grandmother of Traditional Music). She is a well respected and important woman in the music business too, where bands perform in night clubs theatres and festivals. She set an example for the rest of the women musicians in Zimbabwe.

She is a professional artist in the entertainment industry and in the international music circuit. In Zimbabwe before independence she released more than 20 singles of Mbira music of which her first single Kasahwa went gold in 1975.

After Independence she was invited to become a member of the original National Dance Company of Zimbabwe, where she soon took the part of a leading Mbira solo player, dancer and actress. Her work will always be remembered.

Her solo work has established herself as one of the most original artists in the contemporary African scene using popular music to show the deepness and power of her traditional spiritual music at home and abroad. Stella's experience has been stimulating her to introduce Mbira music to the occidental context without loosing the relation to her Zimbabwean tradition: She creates warm dance grooves as well as popular songs always based on Mbira rhythms, when performing with her band.

The fusion of Stella's music and contemporary guitars has not only made her an international figure, but also as Zimbabwe's cultural Ambassador.
Apart from her merit combining Mbira with Marimba in morden Zimbabwean music, she is touring Europe regularly since 1983 and has released seven internationally successful albums ( Ndizvozvo Ambuya, 1987 - Chisi, 1989 - Kumusha, 1991 and Shungu, 1994. Kumusha track has won her a 1993 Billboard Music Award for performance on the Adult/ Alternativ/ World Music Album of the year) -Shungu 1990,
The best of Stella Chiweshe: 1998 -The Healing Tree, 2001- Tapera, and 2002 -Talking Mbira.
Double-Check 2006, Ndondopetera 2007 and Kwoyedza 2014.

Press Quotes

Amazon.com
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.

"Stella is a great musician and performer who has, and continues to, pay her dues and put out some great studio albums."
"Imagine a sound somewhere between that of a steel band and a finger trailing the spokes of a slowly spinning bicycle wheel. Amplify. That's the mbira or thumb piano, in Zimbabwe the most important traditional instrument. Scraps of metal are beaten into flattened keys and attached to a wooden framework with or without an additional circular resonator. Chiweshe is an innovator in what was previously a male-dominated genre and has taken it into the context of modern Zimbabwe pop."
Rouge

"Stella's repertoire stretches from straight classical pieces to bubbly uptempo jigs. The mbira ripples and chimes like a xylophone, and sounds remarkable galloping alongside shimmering guitars and pulsating drums."
Roots
"Her expert mbira playing is matched only by her pained vocals which are always given a full-throated delivery that achieves an exhilarating intensity. They soothe, comfort, provoke, then bite with the harshness of an acid drop."
Blue Juice

"Stella Chiweshe - Mystic Sounds from Inner Space If colonialism is on its last gasp, in Rhodesia, it seems capable of holding its breath for a very long time. It’s the early 1950s and an eight-year-old girl can hear drums, loud powerful drums, that rock her world and accompany the mbira she is listening to. Only, no one else can hear the drums." www.fly.co.uk "

A double CD from Stella Chiweshe, one labelled Trance Hits, the other Classic Hits. So much is clear. But listen as I might, it's surprisingly difficult to arrange any critical thoughts about her music. It exists so much in itself, a complete system, upfront and straight forward for all but still magical and elusive, that it's hard to listen to it in any other spirit than the one for which it was intended. The mbira or thumb piano, small and unassuming instrument from which Ms Chiweshe weaves her sonic fabric, is in Zimbabwe more than an instrument: it is the means through which communication with the spirit world is made possible. This is eminently plausible. Just to take in the somewhat ghostly plinky-plonk notes of the splayed metal tongues, rolling in changing sequence like pocket church bells, is already to take a step out of the ordinary world. This sound can be most effectively incorporated into modern groove music- and like the West African kora, it transforms what it touches." fROOTS 03-2006 "

Apart from being a virtuoso musician---her playing forms much of the backbone of both discs, although never flashily, but the underpining of it all---she's also a powerful and persuasive singer, one of the great, if largely unknown, African artists of her generation. This collection, which gives her the chance to show her wares at length, truly does her justice, because she's an artist best heard at length, and explored in proper depth to be fully appreciated." Sing Out! "

The mbira - a metal toothed thumb piano - was a taboo instrument for Zimbabwean women before Stella Chiweshe took it upon herself to change all that. And for the past 40 years she's been perfecting her skill on this hypnotic instrument, developing a loyal fanbase throughout the world whilst playing anywhere from major concert halls to weddings and funerals. CD1 of 'Double Check' consists of new recordings and has more of an ambient, trancy vibe.CD2 has a poppier more urban feel: it's a kind of greatest hits and even includes a track from a 1998 John Peel session. But the one constant throughout this collection is the hard to describe, but easy to listen to, intimate, percussive liquidity of the humble mbira." Metro, Howard Male, 20.02.06

"Piranha has done itself and Chiweshe a service by providing the second disc in this set, a "Classic Hits" collection of thirteen pieces mostly recorded from 1988-1990 in Europe with her Earthquakes band. (Chiweshe made the first recording on the German label, which is now celebrating its 100th release by returning to where it started.) It's interesting to hear how much this archival material is oriented toward danceable rhythms, song form and the electric mbira sound. If, as the liner notes claim, "Zungunde" (disc two, track seven) was improvised in the studio, then this band had a really impressive natural chemistry, because it comes across as a fully organized but also spontaneous jam. "Chachimurenga" takes political struggle to a plateau of reverberant bass and mbira-based groove. The liner notes go a long way to explaining the message behind the music, as well as Chiweshe's own ideas about things, and they're a mandatory stop on the way to fully appreciating this music." All About Jazz, May 2006

"Stella Chiweshe continues to be one of the most original and exciting artist on the contemporary Zimbabwean scene." Folk Roots

 


 

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