Stella Chiweshe - Kasahwa: Early Singles LP
Release Date: September 21st, 2018
A collection of early singles by the renowned Zimbabwean Mbira master and a true African music icon, Stella Chiweshe. The songs were mostly recorded in the 1970s, during the buildup to the Chimurenga revolution, and were only ever released in Stella's home country. Stella's album Kasahwa: Early Singles offers a fascinating introduction to the world of Mbira, with the term not only referring to the instrument, but also to a musical genre -- and on a much wider level, to an entire culture and deeply spiritual lifestyle at the core of the young Zimbabwean nation. Mbira is an ancient mystical music which has been played for over a thousand years by the Shona people. Mbira pervades all aspects of Shona culture, both sacred and secular. Its most important function is as a "telephone to the spirits of people, water, trees, stones and birds," used to contact both deceased ancestors and tribal guardians, at all-night ceremonies. Kasahwa is a collection of impossible-to-find early seven inches, eight cuts spanning the period from 1974 to 1983 and representing Mbira in its purest form. None of these songs has been released outside of Africa so far. In her humble beginnings, little pointed to the fact that young Stella at sixteen would become "The Queen of Mbira" and nothing short of a national icon. Growing up on a musical diet of white American rock n' roll and country, she initially showed little interest in local traditional music. It was not until two years later, that Mbira started to ring inside her head "loud and endlessly". This overwhelming, mystical experience turned Chiweshe into an avid student of the instrument and the philosophy connected to it. But playing Mbira music was by no means a career option for women in the British colony of Rhodesia: none of the (male) musicians were willing to teach her. And, almost worse, none of the instrument makers agreed to build an instrument for a woman. Stella ended up recording her debut single "Kasahwa" (1974) on a borrowed thumb piano. "Kasahwa" made Stella a local sensation. After the country had become independent in 1980, Chiweshe started to tour internationally, first as a featured soloist of the new National Dance Company of Zimbabwe, and later under her own name.