Hukwe Zawose, 1996

Enchanting, innovative songs from Tanzania's national treasure, using the vital tools of his musical ancestors: thumb piano, fiddle flute and voice.

There is a Swahili proverb, “Muziki Ni Chakula Cha Roho”, which translates as “music is food for the spirit”.

“When I play music my body begins to boil and then I have to dance. I don’t need to eat or sleep because I am eating music. It is like eating honey- first you dip your finger in, you taste it (he smacks his lips, theatrically) then you want more and more…”

Hukwe Zawose’s songs are rooted in his traditional homeland and reflect the balance between earthy humanity and spiritual power.

It was on the land, herding his father’s cows, that the young Hukwe taught himself to play and sing, walking from village to village enchanting all with his exquisite music.

Stories from this time ascribe magical powers to Hukwe and his music. Zawose himself simply claimed that the “magic” is the result of a natural singing voice and hard work. “When I was a young man my voice was so sweet that people would often cry when I sang. In fact, sometimes I would hear myself and even I would cry, wondering what I had done to deserve such a precious gift.”

“All my songs have one thing in common - they are about my life, drawn from my experiences. You see my wife over there, pounding the cassava? If watching her makes me feel something, then it may become a song. My songs are short and simple but behind the words there are many meanings.

By writing songs in this way I am keeping the tradition of my people, which is something about which I feel very strongly. In Africa many people look with disdain upon traditional musicians who continue to use their own instruments and their own language. A person who sings in English is regarded as superior. This is where our views strike against each other. English is just another language and any language is just a means of expression. I can best express myself in the language of my people so I will continue to do so.”

"...he has one of the planet's most amazing recorded voices, spanning from a high falsetto to a hoarse roar with apparent ease..." fRoots


  • Top of the Best: Individual Artists Category... An engaging piece of roots music - traditional music with traditional instruments." New African Life (1996) (UK)
  • ..Zawose can do no wrong. Superb. Q Magazine (UK)
  • ..simple folk instruments... ...combined with haunting vocals, which add up to extremely sophisticated, gentle and very atmospheric music. Superb! Sacred Hoop (1997) (UK)
  • A very joyous and organic sounding album December 1996/January 1997 Bm Vox (UK)
  • ...he has one of the planet’s most amazing recorded voices... ... spanning from a high falsetto to a hoarse roar with apparent ease...A real, living tradition of incredible power, beauty and spookiness quotient. Star! Folk Roots (1996) (UK)
  • ...what a voice it is. Ranging from the near guttural - recalling Australian aboriginal singing - to incredibly sweet, soaring rivers of sound, it can send shivers down your spine. Pasatiempo (1996) (USA)
  • ...a rich tapestry of sound. 3 November 1996 The Washington Post (USA)
  • It was the rousing polyphony of the second track, Chilumi, a vocal with simple bell accompaniment, that caused ears to prick up and pay attention to the sheer beauty of the sounds they were hearing. July/August 1996 Tradewind (UK)
  • A set of traditional Tanzanian songs ... ...whose unusual tones cast a mesmerising spell. Music Week (1996) (UK)