Stella Chiweshe - Double Check
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The queen of mbira Stella Chiweshe
Double Check
Piranha (

Zimbabwe's Stella Chiweshe has cast many a spell as both a singer and a player of the mbira (a thumb-plucked instrument of metal strips set in a wood or gourd resonator). The simple power of the mbira once led to its attempted suppression by British colonial authorities and the church, but despite those obstacles and the idea that a woman ought not play mbira, Chiweshe became acclaimed for her work in ceremonial and entertainment settings. As a recording artist, she's created splendid examples of meditative music from the traditions of Zimbabwe's Shona people along with more electrified offerings, each ever reflective of the ongoing struggles of her country and its citizens. Chiweshe's music can bring about the same aching, longing sense as that of Thomas Mapfumo or Oliver Mtukudzi while also breaking out in celebration when needed. With the two-CD Double Check, the best of both her worlds is presented. Disc one is comprised of pensive songs built largely around mbira, ngoma drums and hosho rattles, laced with Chiweshe's multitracked voice and echoed production. The music flows like blood through the body and feels every bit as life-sustaining. Absolutely wonderful. The second disc is more upbeat, a selection of mostly '90s tunes ranging from rockish Afropop to jangly stompers that factor in drum kit, guitar and marimba for a good time feel. Being less familiar with this aspect of Chiweshe's music, I found it equally revealing and invigorating. So if it's an introduction to Stella Chiweshe you seek or a sharp summation of what she's all about, Double Check is one to check. - Tom Orr

The artist's web site:

CD available from cdRoots

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