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In my father’s barbershop in the early 1970s, I heard a sound that would open an entire world to me. It was the sound of a traditional Zimbabwean instrument, the mbira—also known as kalimba—which was featured on the now classic Earth, Wind & Fire “Kalimba Story.” It’s amazing how one sound can teleport you across the world.

The mbira symbolizes the continued liberation of Zimbabwe and its people. One of the forefathers of the the mbira was Zimbabwean musician and educator Dumisani “Dumi” Maraire, who introduced the instrument and its Shona ethnic lineage to the United States, bridging the two worlds through performances, recordings, and an ethnomusicology program between Seattle University and University of Zimbabwe.

The sound of the nyunga nyunga mbira that Dumi developed has been transformed through the Afrofuturist lens of his son, Tendai Maraire. Tendai and Congolese guitarist Hussein Kalonji—known as Chimurenga Renaissance—have become the sonic translators of the ancient tradition, weaving the sound into an electronic texture rooted between hip-hop and sacred African music.

Nhaka, the soon-to-be-released album by Chimurenga Renaissance, utilizes the art of sampling to time-travel into Dumi’s musical archive and recontextualize it into a futuristic version of Shona cultural aesthetics. Songs like “Zimlife,” “Paradise,” and the Motown-inspired “Up”—which borrows from the traditional wedding song “Chiro Chacho”—marry Africa and the West in a chunky musical stew with many spices to waken the mundane musical palate.

Get ready to feel as I did when my ears opened up to a new world of possibilities and, as always, imagination.


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