The Zawose Queens from Tanzanian musical dynasty announce debut album Maisha

Pendo and Leah Zawose, from the city of Bagamoyo in Tanzania, East Africa, have announced details of their debut album Maisha under the name ‘The Zawose Queens’. It is a long-awaited first release by female members of one of Tanzania’s most famous musical families.

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 by The Zawose Queens on LP & CD.

Order the album

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.

The Zawose Queens - Maisha (Official Video)

‘Maisha’ is the first track to be shared from the forthcoming album. Its lyrics tell of the daily fight for a better life, and its potent ancient-to-future sound finds the Queens on vocals, illimba and percussion, with Wamwiduka Band on backing vocals and percussion and club-focused production including drums, synths and 808 bass.

The album will be released on Real World Records, the label on which the late Hukwe Zawose released a number of recordings in the 1990s. Hukwe performed at numerous WOMAD festivals and toured with the organization around the world, as well as supporting Peter Gabriel on his Growing Up tour in 2002. The Zawose Queens will follow in their father and grandfather’s footsteps by performing at WOMAD this July in Wiltshire.

The album Maisha will be released on CD, LP and digitally on 7 June 2024. The title track is now available on all digital platforms. The Zawose Queens will soon announce a series of Summer 2024 shows in the UK and Europe.

Order the album

Further listening

  • Maisha

    The Zawose Queens

    Released 07 June 2024

    The Zawose Queens are Leah and Pendo Zawose of the Tanzanian Wagogo people, whose joyous otherworldly vocals and polyphonic rhythms on drums, thumb pianos and chizeze fiddle mirror the sounds of nature. The grand-daughter and daughter of the late, great Hukwe Zawose, like all the women in the Zawose family, they were once forbidden from the spotlight. Aided by producers Oli Barton-Wood and Tom Excell, this is a stunning debut of eleven original songs that deftly blend the acoustic, electronic, traditional and modern.

By Online Editor

Main image: Leah and Pendo Zawose, a.k.a. The Zawose Queens. Photo credit: Michael Mbwambo.

Published on Wed, 20 March 24

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