Stella Chiweshe – Kasahwa: Early Singles

Album Review | Glitterbeat | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5

For world perspective, if we consider that the biggest UK single of 1973 was Dawn’s ever-so-twee “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree” and by 1983 we had arrived at the dazzlingy colourful Karma Chameleon, courtesy of Culture Club, then Stella Chiweshe’s run of singles, released exclusively in her homeland during this period, seem positively raw. At just 16, the young Zimbabwean Mbira master shone in her field, that of the ancient mystical music of the Shona people, yet she endured a fair amount of irritation along the way, not least the reluctance she found in her male contemporaries, none of whom would teach her the instrument and being refused by Mbira makers to build her an instrument. The upside to this archaic attitude towards women is that it made her even more determined and she soon became known as the ‘Queen of Mbira’ and remains so today as a 70 year-old rebel. With a keen command over the thumb-picked instrument, together with an almost mournful, yet determined vocal delivery, the songs here remind us of the raw power of the music produced during the rise of the Chimurenga revolution and the time when some of us first became aware that there was more to life than Tony Orlando and Boy George. With shakers providing the rhythm, these eight captivating songs serve as a good introduction to Stella Chiweshe’s music and as a fine collection in lieu of those ever-so elusive 45s.