Monday, November 7, 2011

The Soul of Mbira

Muchatera Mujuru
after a photo by Paul Berliner
13" x 7.5", oil on wood, 2011
The next time I reshuffle my record collection I plan on organizing the category of traditional music from around the world by record company instead of the current geographical arrangement. It would be nice to see those records with a very specific sleeve design, such as Arion and Olympic together. It will bring together items from a single catalog as well as the field work by a single musicologist. The  Library of Congress carries most of Alan Lomax's recordings while the Nonesuch Explorer Series houses David Lewiston's. The Ethnic Folkways Series under the umbrella of the Library of Congress and the Nonesuch series are the most interesting. They have the most extensive and acclaimed collection of authentic field recordings. The Soul of Mbira: Traditions of the Shona People of Rhodesia is one of many highlights from the Nonesuch Explorer catalog. This one wasn't recorded by David Lewiston, he did some tape editing, but by Paul Berliner, who also wrote the liner notes, and supplied the photographic illustrations. I've had a copy of The Soul of Mbira on a cassette tape for a long time and was delighted to find an original vinyl copy in a local thrift store. Nyamoropa Yevana Vava Muchonga by Muchatera Mujuru was my favorite track when I first listed the album in the Top 100 back in 1991, and now 20 years later it still is my favorite and reappears in the Top 100. With my cassette I never had a copy of the liner notes and it is not until now that I learn that Nyamoropa, according to Paul Berliner, is played on "one of the few remaining varieties of an older style 25-key Mbira Dza Vadaimu, having th lowest and most traditional tunings".
The Soul of Mbira: Traditions of the Shona People of Rhodesia was first released in 1973, when it was issued on cd in 2002, the title changed to: Zimbabwe: The Soul of Mbira, Traditions of the Shona People.

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