ZIMBABWE’S gwenyambira (mbira player) Stella Chiweshe’s 1980s classic album titled Ambuya has been re-issued for posterity.
Originally released in 1987, the album that features the hit song Chaachimurenga has been re-mastered from analog tapes and is now available on vinyl, compact disc and online.
The album is already in this month’s Top 10 of the Transglobal World Music Charts list.
Piranha Records and Publishing, Ambuya Chiweshe’s record stable, said about the remake of the album: “Today we celebrate the re-issue of Stella Chiweshe’s groundbreaking album Ambuya!
“We would like to pay our tribute to the ‘Queen of Mbira’ Stella Chiweshe, by dedicating this newsletter entirely to her.
“The revered name Ambuya? with a question mark — becomes Ambuya! with an exclamation mark. The ‘Queen of Mbira’ Stella Chiweshe has earned this not only with her music but also with her attitude and self-assertion,” Piranha Records and Publishing said.
“After the first release of Stella Chiweshe’s international debut Ambuya?, the time has come to make this great album available again as 180g heavyweight vinyl and CD re-mastered from analog tapes with a ‘John Peel Session’ from 1988 as a bonus.
“We would like to use this space to give a personal shout out to everyone who contributed in Stella Chiweshe’s crowdfunding campaign for the construction of the Chivanhu Centre. With your help, the home that will try to preserve Mbira music and its tradition in Zimbabwe can start being built.”
The album is inspired by Ambuya Chiweshe’s musical approach, showcasing a combination of various titles that bridge the gap between modern and traditional African music.
Explaining the oft-misquoted song Chaachimurenga, Ambuya Chiweshe said each song has its own story and there is a reason why it was recorded.
“Yes, most of these songs resonate very much with what is going on around the world right now. On this album this is where the song Chaachimurenga is.
“What I was singing about in the song Chaachimurenga, where I said: ‘Ko iyi hondo muri kuyiwona here vakomana iyo?’ Yaive hondo yekufa kwanhasi uku, kwekuwurayiwa nechatisingawone (Do you see the looming war? I foretold today’s mass deaths, people perishing at the hands of an invisible enemy). I had dreamt of this kind of death that we are facing nowadays plus the reason the album Ambuya has been re-issued at the right time.”
The playlist on the album includes Nehondo, Njuzu, Mugomba, Chamakuwende, Kasahwa, Chipindura, Ndinogarochema and Sarura Wako.
In an interview with The NewsHawks, the 73-year-old German-based international star said the album was re-issued in aid of her cultural centre.
“It was re-issued to support Chivanhu Trust that is based in Zimbabwe. To enable us to do that myself and my colleagues had to register an association here in Berlin. We named it Chivanhu Foundation e.V. The e.V., means an officially registered association,” Ambuya Chiweshe said.
Asked about Chivanhu Trust, Ambuya Chiweshe said: “I want to revive links between music and the ancestral culture of Zimbabwe. Practicing these traditions can build a more stable future.”
However, she said she was not planning on shooting videos anytime soon because of the Coronavirus restrictions.
However, the album takes you into the musical world of Stella Chiweshe through an hour-long selection of her most beloved tunes through the years.
For those not in the know, Ambuya Chiweshe is lovingly referred to as ambuya not because she is a spirit medium as some suggested but because of her age.
On performing barefooted, Ambuya Chiweshe says she feels comfortable without the shoes. She also wears a crown of beads, something which she says is what vadzimu (ancestral spirits) want her to do.
She has been in and out of Zimbabwe for the greater part of her music career and now she is happy she accomplished what she was tasked to do by the ancestors and now she needs to settle down.
Chivanhu Trust, located in Masembura near Bindura, will be her home.
One of the key areas of this centre, she said, would be the preservation of Zimbabwean culture.
However, the challenge has always been funding.