The Zawose Queens

There is spirit and fire in the music of The Zawose Queens. There's the vibrations of the ancestors, coming through on traditional instruments — soaring chizeze fiddle, buzzing illimba thumb piano, ngoma drums that chatter and thunder — and voices that go deep, high and out there.

There’s the connection to nature, to ceremony and ritual, in their dance-inspired fusion, their blend of the organic, harmonic and modern-day electronic. There are lyrics that tell, in their native kigogo, of the passion for music, the wonders of life. Of pride in environment, in tradition. In their East African roots.

Pendo and Leah Zawose showcase the fluid polyrhythms and rapturous polyphonic singing of the Gogo (aka Wagogo) people of the arid, hilly Dodoma region of central Tanzania. The most famous exponent of this musical tradition is the late, great Dr Hukwe Zawose (Pendo’s father and Leah’s grandfather).

Maisha, the debut album by The Zawose Queens, marks the first time that women from this famous musical family take their place as lead vocalists and performers. Emboldened by workshops in songwriting and music production with visiting UK-based producers Oli Barton-Wood (Jordan Rakei, Obongjayar, Nilufer Yanya) and Tom Excell (Nubiyan Twist, Onipa), The Zawose Queens began writing their first ever songs. The resulting collection of songs range from the stripped back and traditional-sounding to those treated with subtle electronic elements, with beats and drops and found sounds and switch-ups.

Further reading

Jasdeep Singh Degun makes history at Royal Philharmonic Society Awards

The Leeds-based musician was the first sitar player to receive the 'Best Instrumentalist' award.

Mari Kalkun nominated for 3 Estonian Music Awards

The award nominations are in recognition of her album Stories of Stonia, released Summer 2023.

Track of the day: ‘AmmA’ by Bab L’ Bluz

'AmmA' draws on music from north-east Morocco and influences from Tunisia and Algeria.

Sheila Chandra: The pursuit of radical vocal expression

Sheila's trilogy of albums for Real World is being re-issued on CD, and on vinyl for the first time.