On a sunny Friday morning in March 2013, mbira queen Chiwoniso entered the M.F.D recording studio in Harare, Zimbabwe with her friend and fellow musician Jacob Mafuleni.
The previous day, my partner in Nyami Nyami records Charles Houdart, then director of the Alliance Française, had invited the internationally known ‘voice’ of Shona music to pass by the studio to meet my friend Nico Sacco, sound engineer, and myself. After we met her, we asked her if she might be interested in recording something with us.
She said she wanted to record her version of the traditional Zvichapera song, popularised by Thomas Mapfumo. She wanted to do it in a stripped down, all acoustic version, which is what I dreamed of for this song.
The recording was pure magic: Chiwoniso and Jacob overdubbing lines of mbiras, vocals and hosho in quick takes. The session was one of the most emotionally intense sessions I have ever experienced. Though it was short, it left us all uplifted and filled with joy.
The news of her death, so young, a few weeks later took everyone by surprise putting all who knew her and her work in deep sadness.
This first release of Nyami Nyami records is a tribute to Chiwoniso’s artistry and humanity.
The artwork is a drawing by acclaimed Zimbabwean painter Misheck Masamvu.