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World On Your Street: The Global Music Challenge
Netsayi Chigwendere © Mark Simmons Photography
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Musician: Netsayi Chigwendere

Location: Bristol

Instruments: mbira / voice

Music: African American / Zimbabwean


Listen  Listen (05'00) to Netsayi Chigwendere play 'The Refugee Song'

Listen to Netsayi Chigwendere in the World on Your Street tent at WOMAD 2003

'I also listened to a lot of Zimbabwean pop and traditional community singing such as they do in Zimbabwe at funerals or in church...'

How I came to this music:

I was born in London and lived there till I was seven when my family moved back to Zimbabwe, just after independence. I grew up there listing to all sorts of stuff on the radio ­ American R&B, soul and jazz and things like Nina Simone and Joan Armatrading.

And I also listened to a lot of Zimbabwean pop and traditional community singing such as they do in Zimbabwe at funerals or in church or at any sort of family gathering. Like gospel, but with a Chimurenga bassline.

About three years ago, having worked in film for ten years in South Africa then Zimbabwe, I came back here do a Masters in film production. But after a year I dropped out to do music full time.

I've been performing as a singer since I was about ten and even though a lot of my relatives sing too, nobody but me has actually dared to do it for a living. I had all these ideas which I thought I could realise as a film maker and as a painter, but because film is such an expensive medium it's really difficult to express things immediately.

I decided that I wanted to try and put all the different forms that inspired me together, so I got in touch with my childhood friend Rujeko Dumbutshena. And she put me in touch with her uncle Chartwell Dutiro, who used to play mbira for Thomas Mapfumo and now has his own band called Spirit Talk Mbira. I wanted him to teach me about drum patterns, because I wanted to focus on rhythm, but he persuaded me I should learn mbira. And for the last two years I've also been singing backing vocals in his band

Where I play:

Netsayi Chigwendere © Mark Simmons PhotographyI still sing with Chartwell's group and I've also been doing solo gigs for a little less than two years. Last year I did a gig as part The Vagina Monologues at The Royal Albert Hall.

Up to that time I'd just been doing little singer songwriter type gigs with a guitarist but then I started working with a jazz pianist called Zoe Rahman. We've done gigs at The Barbican and at The Royal Festival Hall as part of last year's London Jazz Festival. I also gig with my full band (simply called Netsayi) and we've played at the Festival Hall and The Spitz. And I've worked abroad with a group called Pangea, doing gigs in the U.S. and Australia.

A favourite song:

The Refugee Song is a recording done during the London Jazz festival and it's just piano and voice, but it's kind of a good example of me trying to mix R&B and jazz style with traditional Shona rhythms from Zimbabwe, which Zoe does quite well on the piano.

The lyrics are partly in Shona but mostly in English and it's a kind of fictitious story about a woman who meets a homesick man who's a refugee at a party. It's quite melancholy because he's reminiscing abut his grandmother's 'sucker' and the food from home. A lot of the women in my family have got a 'sucker', which is like a baby's dummy.
Click here for Hande Domac's storyClick here for Mosi Conde's storyClick here for Rachel McLeod's story





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