David Gweshe (pictured here second from the left) is a true pioneer of Zimbabwean music, constantly expanding the boundaries of traditional Shona music. Whether playing mbira at a bira ceremony or leading a group playing electric guitars, marimba, accordion or steel drum, the wisdom of his spirituality comes through. Born in 1940, Sekuru Gweshe comes from the Budya people, a subgroup of the Kore Kore. He is a descendant of Nohoreka, the first of the Budya people and the founder of the Shumba totem originating in Tanganyika (Tanzania). He began playing njari at age 14 and over time added keys to the njari in order to "play all the parts" of the music that he heard in his head. This is how Gweshe devised the Munyonga mbira featured on his CD Mhuri YekwaNohoreka. The songs on this recording are mainly played at religious functions in which the music is used to summon ancestral spirits. Gweshe is a spiritual leader who has an important message for the people of today. He feels that through colonization and suppression of the indigenous cultures of the world, people have lost their sense of self-importance and the power of their traditional culture. The "civilized madness" of today is not helping eliminate the problems of drought, disease, and corruption. By going back to our ancestors, we can learn to fix these problems.
("The Family of Nohoreka")
(2001, Length: 42:43, Notes: 4pp.)
This is a lively CD of enjoyable music played on an unusual combination of instruments. David Gweshe's self-designed 47-key Munyonga mbira has a strong, hollow sound that makes me visualize mallets striking tuned metal bars hanging in a large cave.
Although this is an ensemble performance, Gweshe is the only mbira player. The steel drum, which accompanies the mbira on some of the tracks, fits well with the Munyonga's timbre. (I've always wanted to hear mbira parts hocketed on steel drums, and this CD hints at how successful that could be.) Gweshe's strong singing, good female back-up vocals, hosho, and ngoma fill out the sound. Fans of Shona rungano (story songs) will enjoy Chibvashure ("Who was the turtle eaten by? / It was eaten by Chibvashure") sung in English and Shona. My favorite track is one of my favorite mbira songs, Kunatsa Muroyi ("To please a witch... feed her your children!").
This CD contains complete line by line translations from Shona to English, except in the song "Mbiriviri" which has a detailed story explanation.