SOAS University of London

Department of Music, School of Arts

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'Spirit Talk Mbira' - Chartwell Dutiro

Inspired by Chartwell Dutiro's life's work as a master mbira player, the music of Spirit Talk takes traditional mbira and Shona folk songs into a new dimension. This is both music to dance to, and music for reflection - high energy and deep spirit.

The mbira is an ancient instrument, originally played by the Zezuru people in Zimbabwe, that is performed on religious and social occasions (between which there is little distinction). Its most important role is in the bira ceremony - mbira music plays a crucial part in the all night ceremonies that are held in honour of the ancestors, who are consulted through spirit mediums to provide guidance in everyday life.

The mbira consists of a set of at least 22 metal keys mounted on a wooden soundboard which has buzzers attached to it. The keys are plucked and stroked with both thumbs and the right index finger to produce a ringing sound, and for natural amplification, the mbira is put into a gourd (deze), decorated with bottle tops or shells to increase the integral buzzing. Mbira often accompany stories, songs and dance.

The album was recorded live at Gateway on 27th OCtober 2001.