Chibite

Hukwe Zawose

Released 17 June 1996

  1. Sisitizo La Amani Duniani
  2. Chilumi
  3. Ibarikiwe Mungu Yupo Duniani
  4. Munyamaye
  5. Nyangawuya
  6. Nghanga Msakuzi
  7. Jende Chiwuyaje Kukaya
  8. Sauti Za Kigogo
  9. Safari Na Muziki
  10. Twendeni Sote Na Mwanga Wa Amani

Liner notes

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 claims 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.”

His reputation spread to Julius Nyrene, Tanzania’s first president, the ‘Father of the Nation’, who whisked him off to the state residence in Dar Es Salaam before returning him home to a hero’s welcome.

International stature followed with live performances worldwide. He now lives in Bagamoyo, on the shores of the Indian Ocean, where an extraordinary College of Arts has been established to preserve and strengthen the artistic traditions of Tanzania’s 122 ethnic groups. This heritage is a living tradition in Hukwe Zawose’s hands:

Hukwe & Charles Zawose. Photo credit: Stephen Lovell-Davis
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. Hukwe Zawose

“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 lanuage 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.”

Hukwe is a musician of great significance —both as a national treasure and a magical character of almost mythical proportions amongst his own people.

Song lyrics

1. Sisitizo La Amani Duniani

Fifty years later and we are still crying over the tragedy of Hiroshima.
This example we can clearly see
– can’t we learn from it?

War is a terrible thing – don’t be told otherwise.
After the deaths in Hiroshima, children are still born deformed, disfigured, crippled, suffering.

This example we can clearly see – let’s learn.

 

2. Chilumi

(Arrangement of many voices)

 

3. Ibarikiwe Mungu Yupo Duniani

What a blessing that there is a God here in the world with us.
We’ll keep striving because God will help us in the end.

We will struggle, we will try. You should try.
I swear it’s true, my child.

 

4. Munyamaye

Introduction (improvised)
Quiet, we are singing.
Motiyani, are you crying?
Be calm, here we are far from home but can’t you hear how our instruments cry? Even a sick man will sit up to listen and enjoy.
We are here struggling, searching for life. We are here in Box, England.

Call
Mother, Father, Grandfather, why are you all so quiet?

Response
My ancestors, have you abandoned me? Call
I have so many responsibilities and I feel alone.
My ancestors, why are you quiet – have you all abandoned me?

Aside
We greet all of you back home in Tanzania.
It’s me, Zawose, and my son Charles, and we are playing our traditional music for all.

 

5. Nyangawuya

A young girl called Nyangawuya was called to look after her sister’s baby while the sister went on Safari. The time came for Nyangawuya to leave. The child’s father asked her to stay longer but Nyangawuya was adamant. Soon after she left the baby began to cry and cry. The father chased after Nyangawuya to bring her back, but she refused so he killed her, cut off her head and hid her body, her clothes, beads and earrings in a hollow Baobab tree. The head he took home. As soon as the baby saw Nyangawuya’s face he was calm. The father wrapped the head and hid it deep in a grain bin. Whenever he was alone with the child and it cried he showed him the head and the baby would be calm and happy. One day when the mother was at home the child cried desperately for hours, pointing at the grain bin. Finally Ndelwo looked inside the bin and pulled out the head, which sang this song telling of her husband’s terrible deed.

Yiye Yiye . . .

 

6. Nghanga Msakuzi

“Nghanga” (a type of bird) is a thief.
So if you want to harvest crops from the seed you sow, you must be awake very early to beat him to the fields.
He brought us freedom – Father of the Nation.
He brought us brotherhood – Father of the Nation.
God look over him – Father of the Nation. People, if it wasn’t for Nyrere we would be back where we were – Father of the Nation.

 

7. Jende Chiwuyaje Kukaya

An initiation song, sung when the returning initiates are almost home, to let everyone know that they are coming. Also sung by travellers returning home.

 

8. Sauti Za Kigogo

(Pure sounds of the Wagogo)

 

9. Safari Na Muziki

(A journey with music)

 

10. Twendeni Sote Na Mwanga Wa Amani

Let’s all go into the light of the peace. Oh earth.
Oh Africa.
Let’s all move into the light of peace. Ahaha mother I’m hurting.

Ahaha people I’m hurting.

Ahaha mother I’m crying.

Hukwe & Charles Zawose are interviewed at WOMAD Reading 2000

Reviews

  • Zawose can do no wrong. Superb. Q Magazine (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 (UK)
  • A rich tapestry of sound The Washington Post

Listen

Credits

The Musicians: Hukwe Zawose voice, ilimba (thumb piano), izezes (traditional violins), filimbi (traditional flute), nguga (ankle bells). Charles Zawose voice, ilimbas (thumb pianos).

Recorded July 1995 during the Real World Recording Week at Real World Studios, England. Produced by Richard Evans. Mixed by Tchad Blake. Assistant Recording Engineer Sam Gibson.

A Real World Design. Graphic Design Tristan Manco. Photography by Stephen Lovell-Davis. Sleeve notes and translations by Bernie Hewett.

Special thanks to Peter Gabriel.

Further Listening

  • Assembly

    Hukwe Zawose

    Released 20 May 2002

    Canadian guitarist/producer Michael Brook (Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Brian Eno, Youssou N’Dour…) works his magic with legendary Tanzanian singer/musician Dr. Hukwe Zawose. Gorgeous, melodic, driven by irresistible grooves, featuring Marie Dalne (Zap Mama) and Lee Thornberg’s Latin brass.
  • En Mana Kuoyo

    Ayub Ogada

    Released 17 May 1993

    Kenyan singer-songwriter Ayub Ogada was a busker on London’s Northern Line when he came to Real World’s attention in the late 80s. And this 1993 set – his only record for the label – proved that it was a meeting of minds, with his disarmingly simple arrangements allowed to hang there unadorned, making a lasting impression.

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