Timbila is a New York-based Afrodelic band that merges traditional music from Zimbabwe and Mozambique with East Village rock. Its American founders met in Zimbabwe in 1997 and have been creating together ever since, building new creations around the timbila, xylophone of Mozambique, and the metal-pronged mbira of Zimbabwe. Chartwell ...
Timbila is a New York-based band that merges traditional music from Zimbabwe and Mozambique with East Village rock. Its American founders met in Zimbabwe in 1997 and have been creating together ever since. Chartwell Dutiro is a maverick mbira player from Zimbabwe with a story that begins in the sacred musical rituals of his home village, passes through the international limelight of the world music years in the company of Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited, and continues today in the U.K. Dutiro and Timbila began collaborating in 2013, and have developed an entrancing, expansive repertoire together. This album shows two sides of the collaboration: first, Timbila backing Dutiro in new interpretations of ancient Zimbabwean songs; then, Dutiro acting a producer for Timbila’s original compositions and arrangements. This two-way musical encounter has yielded an unexpected delicacy….sadza (the staple food of Zimbabwe) with the head of a mouse!
TIMBILA [tim-BEE-lah] reinvents some of the most beautiful music traditions of Zimbabwe and Mozambique with a rock edge. The band started when vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Nora Balaban met guitarist Banning Eyre and bass player Dirck Westervelt in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1997. Balaban, a veteran of CBGB’s punk and San Francisco’s “worldbeat” scene in the 1980s, was studying mbira (Shona lamellophone) and timbila (Chopi xylophone) with master teachers in Harare. Eyre, a writer and producer for public radio’s Peabody Award-winning program Afropop Worldwide, was playing guitar, and Westervelt banjo and bass, with Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited, Zimbabwe’s top traditional pop band. The American musicians quickly found common ground and began creating together back home.
Bill Ruyle, percussionist extraordinaire, and a convert to the seductive world of Zimbabwean music, plays drums, tabla and other percussion. Vocalist and actress Louisa Bradshaw and Rima Fand, a violinist and vocalist with a background ranging from old-time to Balkan music, complete the band’s current lineup. Like Eyre on guitar, Fand plays lines drawn from mbira and timbila melodies, and improvises like a fiend. In Timbila’s music, the surreal buzzing beauty of timbila and hypnotic dream melodies of mbira soar with stinging guitar riffs and celestial vocals in grooves that are deeply funky, fierce and danceable. Balaban, Bradshaw and Fand have developed a signature approach to vocal arranging, combining ancient Shona and Chopi melodies with contemporary harmonies and layering techniques in a deep meld of southern African spirituality and expressive pop.
Chartwell Dutiro grew up in rural Zimbabwe and started playing mbira at the age of four. From his village childhood in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) when he played at ceremonies with a local spirit medium, to his years performing and recording with Zimbabwe’s iconic Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited, to his more recent career as a teacher, solo artist, and bandleader in the U.K., Dutiro has cut a remarkable path through African music. Dutiro is a superb instrumentalist and a soulful singer and his distinctive arrangements of Shona traditional songs are both innovative and inspirational. He is also a gifted storyteller with a deep sense of history and a wry sense of humor. An evening in his presence is an unforgettable experience.
Dutiro specializes in collaborations, and has worked with artists in many genres all over the world. His collaboration with Timbila actually goes all the way back to his 1988 meeting with Banning Eyre, when Eyre was doing research for Afropop Worldwide in Zimbabwe. It took many years, but the two musicians’ ambition to work together finally came to fruition in 2013, when Nora Balaban urged Dutiro to spend time in New York collaborating with Timbila. It began with the development of a repertoire of traditional songs, the contents of the Sadza volume of this double release, recorded recorded and mixed by Andy Taub at Brooklyn Recording in 2015. The following summer, working with Greg Talenfeld at OK Records in Nyack, NY, Dutiro oversaw a set of sessions in which Timbila created definitive versions of eight new songs for the Mouse volume of the release. The result is a multifaceted album in which deep tradition and contemporary pop sensibilities converge and converse as never before.
Availble on CD Baby:
Praise for Sadza with the Head of a Mouse:
Timbila with distortion! A cutting edge sound that brings Mozambican tradition into the 21st century. — Angelique Kidjo
What were you people smoking? — Seun Kuti
Timbila brings their own mojo to some of the richest African musical traditions, with great heart, chops and authenticity. — Bonnie Raitt
A raucously good album! In a moment you hear what would usually take five songs to cover: Central Africa, Bamako, Ireland and mbira... and that’s just in one guitar solo. — Derek Gripper
This music may be thousands of miles from where it started, but far from being some sort of ethnomusicologist’s exercise, Timbila’s latest album never loses sight of music as a way of communicating human emotion, proving that, like sadza, music is what you bring to it. — Ben Richmond, from his album review on afropop.org.
Notes on the songs:
A song about dealing with hardships brought by colonialism. English lyrics by Rima, inspired by the Shona lyrics.
A song about the hardships during the Zimbabwean liberation struggle and missing those who have been lost.
I warned you, and now you’ve gotten into trouble.
A vigorous, high energy dance that requires eating sadza with the head of a mouse (a delicacy) before dancing.
A song describing a ritual ceremony to call the ancestors, involving Chartwell’s animal totem, the eland (mhofu).
6. Baya Wa Baya
An ancient war song.
The paradox of life with its pain and sweetness, and a call for protectors.
Performed by Timbila with Chartwell Dutiro
Recorded and Mixed by Andy Taub at Brooklyn Recording
Mastered by Carl Rowatti at Trutone Mastering Labs
1.Walking The Pink Fire
Original by Nora Balaban, arranged by Timbila.
2.My Heart Is A Real Thing
Based on the traditional mbira song “Shanje.” Vocals by Nora Balaban, lyrics by Bob Holman, arranged by Timbila.
“” Lyrics by Irene Chigamba, arranged by Timbila.
Based on a traditional Chopi timbila piece. Vocals by Nora Balaban, lyrics by Bob Holman, bridge section by Banning Eyre, arranged by Timbila.
6.Kiss Kiss Abyss
Based on the traditional mbira song “Mukatiende.” Vocals by Nora Balaban, lyrics by Bob Holman, arranged by Timbila.
Based on a Chopi timbila piece by Venancio Mbande. Vocals by Nora Balaban, arranged by Timbila.
Performed by Timbila
Produced by Chartwell Dutiro
Recorded and mixed by Greg Talenfeld at OK Records
Mastered by Carl Rowatti at Trutone Mastering Labs
Nora Balaban - mbira, timbila, vocals
Banning Eyre - guitars
Rima Fand - violin, vocals
Louisa Bradshaw - vocals
Dirck Westervelt - bass
Bill Ruyle - drums, percussion
Chartwell Dutiro - mbira, percussion, vocals
CD Design - Susan Rapalee
Photos - Karen Kirsch Page