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In all but one case the traditional mbira song names, as first taught to me, are in parenthesis next to my song titles. I have omitted the full names of my teachers in the liner notes to respect their privacy, following suite with my travel memoir MBIRA MAKER BLUES.

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A portion of the proceeds help orphans and musicians in Zimbabwe.

Hana Yangu Yarova (Mahororo)
My second week in Zimbabwe I bought an old book about Shona social customs from a street vendor in Harare. Three phrases from the book inspired this song.

All we need,
love to feed.
Burn all greed,
plant a seed.
Munhu akasununguka. (a man free from worries)

Hear a mother cry,
watch her child die.
All these lies,
fear in disguise.
Hana yangu yarova. (my conscious is beating)

A world in pain,
an empty refrain.
A song to gain,
hearts beat the same.
Rugare tange nhamo. (peace comes after hardship/sorrow)

Who's to bleed?
Honor's in the deed.
We all can lead,
compassion to be freed.
Hana yangu yarova.

Show Me the Way (Dande)
While working with an mbira maker crafting the mbira I most often play on this CD, I had a dream one night. In the dream I saw a hand holding a heavy hammer and pounding the metal keys of an mbira. I heard a song, too, but forgot it upon waking. Many mbira players in Zimbabwe have received songs in their dreams from ancestor spirits. Here I ask for the openness of heart to receive such inspiration.

Hey . . . show me the way
into your heart.

Hands in a dream—
what have I seen?
Who makes the keys?
A song to seize . . .
please, come to me.

Hey . . . show me the way
into your heart.

Face in my sleep
distant and deep.
Called here to play,
destined to stay . . .
pray, don't go away.

Hey . . . show me the way
into your heart.

Voice in the night,
words without sight.
Meaning so near
falls like a tear . . .
hear, quiet my fear.

Kuri Kunaya (Nhemamusasa)
Near the home where I first lived in Zimbabwe, stands an intriguing cluster of huge balanced rocks. Following a narrow trail toward the rocks one day, three young men soon fell in step behind me. "Madame," one asked, "are you going to the rocks to pray?" The rocks had beckoned to me with the beauty of their natural forms; I didn't realize they served as outdoor churches for members of the zealous apostolic faith. Amid the sounds of droning prayers, while a sudden and fierce thunderstorm raged, I crouched under the overhang of two balanced rocks as if witnessing an ancient, biblical moment unfold. Baba means Father.

Walking to the rocks to pray,
follow, follow the way.

Prophet in a robe
preaches in a grove,
under a cloud dark as his skin.
Kneel before him without sin.
Prophet with a staff
paces in a wrath
under a cloud dark as his skin.
Kneel before him without sin.

Lightning breaks the sky,
earth will not stay dry,
thunder rumbles high.

Kuri kunaya, kuri kunaya, kuri kunaya . . . (it is raining)
Shelter in the stone,
I am not alone,
a voice calls Baba in a drone.

Kuri kunaya, kuri kunaya, kuri kunaya . . .

Madam are you safe?
I'm a lost girl, a waif,
I've come to find my faith.
Madam are you safe?
I'm a lost girl, a waif,
I've come to change my fate.

Kuri kunaya, kuri kunaya, kuri kunaya . . .

Take the River (Rasaimapfumo) This mbira piece is an original composition by on of my teachers. When I tried it on Gandanga tuning it took on a more ethereal mood—fitting my fascination with healing traditions of various indigenous cultures involving visionary journeys by boat.

Clouds drift in the dark
and I dream
the boat of souls embarks
on journey's end.

Rain falls with the dawn
and I see
that you were here now gone
on journey's end.

ahh, ahh, ahh . . . take the river to the sea.

Skies clear in the night
and I heed
the chart of stars that lead
to journey's end.

Waves break for the sun
and I ride
to reach the farthest side
of journey's end.

Song of Saint Mary's (Sanje)
This song is dedicated to Ambuya C. for all the kindness she showed to me and for all she shared with me.

Ambuya, she sleeps
under the tree of chameleons.
They hide in the leaves
from the heat of the sun.
The women walk by
holding goods on their heads,
while Ambuya she uses
the ground for her bed.

Muri kupisa mumba, uya pamuti.
(it's hot in the house, come to the tree)

The children, they play in
the dirt roads of Saint Mary's.
Their mothers, they labor
with the burdens they carry.
But Ambuya, she rests
from the hard life she's led,
while chameleons turn green over her head.

Muri kupisa mumba, uya pamuti.

The young men drink beer while the women, they work.
The chameleons watch all from the limbs where they lurk.
And Ambuya awake sees
Saint Mary's pass by—
she laughs as she wipes
a tear from her eye.

Muri kupisa mumba, uya pamuti.

This is How I Go (Mukatiende)
The black silhouette of a figure sitting under a tree that I once saw in my mind while listening to mbira music inspired this song. Here I muse that the image was a spirit, trying to communicate with me, if only I knew how to receive the message.

Worlds apart
drift through my heart.
Where are you?
Our life I drew.
Black I see,
when you watch me.

All I really know,
you have always shown.
This is how I go,
grasping for my soul.

Thoughts in vain.
Our minds make claims.
What I seek,
songs from the creek.
Clouds drift by,
shapes for my eyes.

All I really know,
you have always shown.
This is how I go,
grasping for my soul.

Night in heat.
We cross to meet.
Life you've passed,
I hold on fast.
Breath is slow,
blood knows to flow.

All I really know,
you have always shown.
This is how I go,
grasping for my soul.

Muri Kuitei MuZimbabwe? (Nyamaropa)
Since I was most often seen hanging out with local musicians and therefore not visiting the usual tourist spots in Zimbabwe, people asked me frequently why I was there. This song is meant to be my light hearted response, while honoring the traditions and culture of Zimbabwe I was so fortunate to experience.

Muri kuitei MuZimbabwe? (what are you doing in Zimbabwe?)
Murungu, uya . . . ona! (white person, come . . . see!)

Ndiri kufamba famba—handei! (I'm walking around—let's go!)
Ndiri kuziva shamware yakanaka—makadii? (I'm getting to know a beautiful friend—how are you?)
Ndiri kudya sadza—ndaguta! (I'm eating sadza—I'm full!)
Ndiri kudziza kutaura ChiShona—Nomathemba, maitabasa! (I'm learning how to speak Shona—Nomathemba, thank you!)

Muri kuitei MuZimbabwe?

You go to Vic Falls isn't it?
And Great Zimbabwe,
Chimanimani, Hwange—
the big five: lions, leopards, elephants, rhino, buffalo.
Ah, there's plenty,
plenty to see.

Muri kuitei MuZimbabwe?
MuRungu, uya . . . ona!


Ndiri kuridza mbira—wagona! (I'm playing mbira—you can!)
Ndiri kuputa bute na Sekuru—makombwe! (I'm taking snuff with grandfather—ancestor spirits!)
Ndiri kutamba navana—iwe! (I'm dancing/playing with children—hey you!
Ndiri kufamba famba—handei! (I'm walking around—let's go!)

Ndiri Kuwira This song is for a little girl, Blessing, and in memory of her father who was run over and killed by a bus while I was living in Chitungwiza. Ngozi means a bad spirit.

Ambuya wails and swoons
to the ground.
Rub salt in her mouth—drive bad spirits out.
Hold keys in her hand,
and she will rise up again,
for Blessing, fatherless child.

Red cloth tied, someone
has died inside.
Simba, ndiri kuwira murume wangu. (Simba, my husband, I am falling down.)

It's witches they say, who wanted our boy.
Play drums through the night, welcome dawn's light.
Raise songs for our son, whose manhood had just begun,
with Blessing, fatherless child.

Red cloth tied, someone
has died inside.
Simba, ndiri kuwira murume wangu.

Patience cries and falls
in our arms.
Ngozi accused, who will pay
the widow dues?
Young mother go home, remember you're not alone,
with Blessing, fatherless child.

Zimbabwe Is Dying (Chamutengure)
I woke up one morning to the orphan children next door drumming on a bucket and singing: "anofa nenzara." He dies of hunger. Ambuya C. said, "listen to the children, they know the truth." Distressed by the declining economic conditions of her country, Ambuya C. would sometimes sigh deeply and say: "Zimbabwe is dying."

Vana vari kuimba. (the children are singing)
Vanoridza mugomo. (they play a bucket)
Teererai. (listen)
Anofa nenzara. (he dies of hunger)
Let him rise.

Mwana ari kuchema. (the child cries)
Amai vanobata basa. (mother works hard)
Teererai.
Apana chingwa muchitoro.
(there's no bread in the store)
Let her rise.

Baba vanoenda kumunda. (father goes to the field)
Zino zuva rinopisa. (now the sun is hot)
Teererai.
Tichakohwa chii?
(what will we harvest?)
Let them rise.

Ambuya vanoona zvese. (grandmother sees all)
Vanotora mafemo. (she breathes a sigh)
Zimbabwe is dying.
Let it rise.

Mwana (Mukatiende)
This song celebrates the birth of Ambuya C.'s grandnephew who arrived while I lived at her home. The baby was named James, which happens to be my brother's name. There were complications during his first week and James came close to dying but the local n'anga cured the problem. Mwana means child.

Mwana, baby held inside amai.

Ambuya says it is bad luck to ask when a baby will be born.
It could die.
Let the spirits decide when the child will arrive.

Mwana, baby born today, a cry.

Ambuya says the baby will not take the mother's milk.
Born strong, he grows weak and thin.
They must go and ask the n'anga to save him.

Mwana, baby in her arms, survive.

Ambuya says the mother's
milk is healed.
The baby is hungry and feeds.
Amai James will put him on her back soon
and go to the field.

Mwana, titambire bhudhi. (welcome brother)
Sekai! (laugh!)

Zvino ava amai vomwana. (now she is the mother of a child)
Ane mwoyo murefu. (she has a deep/patient heart)
Mwana wake anonzi James. (the child's name is James)

Mucheche baby James, you have my brother's name.

Twilight (Kuzanga with highline variation)
Often, Ambuya C. and I watched the moon rise together. At twilight the ishwa (flying termites) would fill the air and black birds would swoop and dive for them over our heads while children leapt in the air around us, trying to catch them, too.

Up in the sky,
blackbirds, they dive.

Reach for the sky,
children leap high.

Ishwa in the twilight,
catch what you can.
Fireflies in the night,
I once held in my hand.

Usiku kune rima guru.
Vana vose varara.

Night has a big darkness.
All the children sleep.

Sekuru (Marenje)
This song came to me after Sekuru swept my hut one morning before tea. Here I ponder the life of an old man, left to live alone—a rare situation in Shona society.

Sekuru, sei . . . muri kutsvaira? (grandfather . . . why are you sweeping?)

Where's your girl
who made the swirls?
Earth she swept,
patterns kept.

Where's you wife
who shared you life?
From the trees
her spirit sees.

Where's your son
who held a gun?
Sings no more,
died in war.

Sekuru, sei . . . muri kutsvaira?

Where's your child
so free and wild?
The city steals,
nature heals.

Where's your friend
whose hands could mend?
In the rain,
hear his name.

Here's your home,
you sleep alone.
Stars will shine,
in your mind.

Njuzu (Chipindura)
While in Zimbabwe I heard the stories of two healers (n'anga) who were taken by njuzu (water sprits) to live under the sea for many months to learn about medicinal herbs. I was told that if you receive a calling from the njuzu you must follow it. If you have faith, you will not drown. Your family, too, must believe and trust the njuzu or you might never return again.

Blue/white, njuzu
drum by the river at night.

Have no fear,
shed no tears,
then I'll be back by the end
of the year.

I can breathe
under the sea,
the spirits, they
watch over me.
You must be brave
inside the cave
the secrets then,
they will be saved.

Blue/white, njuzu
drum by the river at night.

Watch the pool,
don't be fooled
beneath the calm
the mermaids rule.

See the snake,
it's no mistake,
he swims above
where they create.

On the land,
understand,
joy is what they will demand.

Blue/white, njuzu
drum by the river at night.

Ndarota (Chipembere)
When clients visit the n'anga Mandaza in Bulawayo, he bids them to "go in the water," to submerge themselves face down in a cold pool he has landscaped into his yard. He also conducts sweat lodges during which the participants sing and pray together while breathing the cleansing steam. When you stay at Mandaza's he will greet you each morning with the same question: "Ndarota chii?" What did you dream? Chipembere is his favorite mbira piece and this song is for him.

Ndarota chii, ndarota chii, ndarota chii?
Tell me your dreams, dear.

Enter the water cold,
float with your soul.

Ndarota chii, ndarota chii, ndarota chii?
Tell me your dreams, dear.

Breathe the heat of steam—
not all is seen.

Ndarota chii, ndarota chii, ndarota chi?
Tell me your dreams, dear.

Speak, you spirits here,
our hearts are clear.

Ndarota chii, ndarota chii, ndarota chii?
Tell me your dreams, dear.


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