Image © 2000
(03 September 2000) The debut album from Chimoniso Maraire, entitled
Ancient Voices (Tinder Records (USA) 42859372, 2000), originally
released in 1998 on the Lusafrica (France) label, is available as a
domestic product for American audiences. Ten worldly tracks blend
the artist's stunning crystalline lead vocals with richly produced
instrumental arrangements. Lyrics are a mixture of English and
other langugages, primarily from Zimbabwe.
Chimoniso, regarded as the star of a new generation, won the RFI prize
for the most promising new singer in Africa in 1998. Her album combines
traditional trance-music of the mbira (tuned metal strips attached to a
sound board, and plucked with the thumbs)
with modern arrangements supported by the band Andy Brown & the Storm.
Ancient Voices is a blend of new age, world and more accessible pop
sounds and is certain to please a broad spectrum of audiences. Arrangements,
while worldly at times, are equally contemporary. Chimoniso has a wonderful
vocal range, resting in a spot between Maggie Reilly and Miriam Stockley,
with excursions soaring into higher octaves as well. The album is rythmically
oriented towards easy dance beats although far more easy listening than
Miriam Stockley and Mae McKenna's work on Shabala.
"Madame 20 Cents" combines reggae rhythms with accessible tunes while
stunning soaring vocals in both English and native tongues are supported
by lovely harmonies. The guitar solo during the instrumental bridge
and arrangements demonstrate the prowess of the supporting band. Lovers
of Miriam Stockley's tribal style vocal layers or the sounds of Phil Sawyer's
Beautiful World will be enthralled with the tracks "Mai," "Nhemamusasa,"
"Iwai Nesu" and "Wandirasa." Contemporary jazz-oriented tracks include
"Ancient Voices," "The Way Of Life," "Tamari" and "Look to the Spirit"
which has a slight reggae beat and a lovely flute part. The album closes
with a soft rock tune entitled "Everyone's Child" sung
primarily with acoustic guitar and mbira accompaniment. The
instrumental bridge is richly produced with traditional sounds.
Vocal work is sweet, evocative and crystalline and demonstrates
the artist's viruousity.
You can find further reviews, hear several sound samples and
order Chiwoniso's album Ancient Voices from amazon.com
here. This album balances stunning vocal work with world, new age
and pop instrumental arrangements. It is easy to understand why Chiwoniso
won the RFI prize for being the most promising new African singer. Her
vocal work, song writing is perfectly complimented by the superb production
of this debut album. Clearly worth a cross country journey we think it is
a must listen!