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World Music CD Reviews Africa

Chiwoniso

By Jeff Tamarkin
Published September 25, 2008

Rebel Woman
Cumbancha (CMB-CD-8)

It’s not imperative to know that Chiwoniso Maraire’s songs address vital spiritual, socio-political and philosophical issues: Even on the non-English-language songs here (the majority of the album) she projects, in the strength of her voice and the drive of her music alone, an urgency that is impossible to miss. Nor is it necessary to know that Chiwoniso—she goes by the single moniker—is of mixed Zimbabwean, South African and African-American heritage: The fusion of intercontinental elements in Rebel Woman’s seamless mix is blatantly informed by a multicultural personal history (her father was an ethnomusicologist who exposed Chiwoniso to a vast variety of international sounds). The dominant instrument here—Chiwoniso’s first international release in a decade—is the singer’s own mbira, which serves as a sonic marker that rides atop both the funkiest and silkiest of grooves, hypnotic in the tempered “Matotsi,” heavenly in the self-explanatory “Only One World,” and seductive in the minimal, defiant “Kurima.”