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World Music CD Reviews Africa

Solomon Murungu

By Bruce Miller
Published March 20, 2007

Spirit of Zambuko: Liturgy & Reflections of Mbira
ZMBK

ZIMBABWE

Anyone who’s ever bothered to listen to the Zimbabwean mbira, the metal-pronged “thumb piano,” whether on one of Nonesuch’s jaw-dropping ’70s-era LPs or up close and personal, has had the opportunity to truly transcend earthly limitations through music. And because this music appeases spirit—the Shona believe the metal fillings of the mbira are actually a worldly form of the deceased—to listen is to be at peace. It shares with some of Morton Feldman’s compositions a sense of mourning, but also calm. It can cause the eyes to rain tears, for here is something so beautiful it’s almost incomprehensible. Solomon Murungu, on this solo effort, emits showers of notes from his mbira, making music that’s simultaneously meditative, complex and absolutely familiar. That a planet as messy as this one still manages to produce people capable of finding it within themselves to make sounds such as these is almost baffling.