Anyone who has collected the best and most moving recordings of traditional African music will know the name “Zawose.” Hukwe Zawose, who died in 2003, was a giant–an influential figure in post-Independence Tanzania, the leader of a traditional music movement, head of a large musical clan, and one of the most mesmerizing performers you will ever see. Playing the deep-pitched Wagogo thumb piano (ilimba or marimba), the overtone-rich string instrument called zeze (a small, bowed version and a larger plucked one), plus balafons, and drums, he also sang using techniques that instantly mark his performances as Wagogo. Hukwe recorded three classic albums Real World–Chibite in 1996, Mkuku Wa Rocho in 2000, and Assembly in 2002, a fusion album made with Michael Brook and Hukwe’s final recording.
In the late spring of 2012, Hukwe’s son Msafire Zawose–in every way a chip off the old block–brought his family’s musical legacy to the US. Afropop caught a midnight acoustic set at Barbes in Brooklyn, and quickly arranged an interview for the program Summer Serenade. Msafiri’s segment is our podcast this week:
As you listen, check out these photos of the man in action at Barbes. Msafiri has no commercial releases as yet, but he will. He’s a major talent, poised to continue his father’s great work by bringing this overlooked music to America. Photos by Banning Eyre, who, as you will hear, got a chance to jam with a young master–a perk of doing Afropop interviews, guitar in hand!