Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Stella Chiweshe

  • Ambuya? [GlobeStyle, 1987] A-
  • The Healing Tree [Shanachie, 1998] ***
  • Talking Mbira [Piranha, 2002] ***
  • Double Check: Two Sides of Zimbabwe's Mbira Queen [Piranha, 2006] **

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Ambuya? [GlobeStyle, 1987]
A woman in a man's domain, "Zimbabwe's queen of the mbira" here reorchestrates an instrument so delicate most Westerners hear it as a toy or sound effect. Neither innovation makes her a rebel, just a Shona revisionist adapting conventional wisdom to transcultural reality: by replacing the customary shakers with a band--another woman's mbira, two marimbas, and unobtrusive bass-and-traps for world-dance accents--she takes a gentle music out of the village without downplaying where it's coming from. I hear courage and tradition in her kind, playful, nasal-to-breathy singing, but not sexual brass, which distinguishes her instantly from other African women intrepid enough to run their own musical shows. A-

The Healing Tree [Shanachie, 1998]
healing don't make humming, especially on a thumb piano ("Huya Uzoona," "Mudzimu Dzoka"). ***

Talking Mbira [Piranha, 2002]
a national treasure--in a nation ransacked? ("Ndabaiwa," "Uchiseka") ***

Double Check: Two Sides of Zimbabwe's Mbira Queen [Piranha, 2006]
To obtain a best-of that'll get you going, you need only make an additional purchase of nine "trance hits" that'll put you to sleep ("Chachimurenga," "Mese Maikwana"). **