Chimurenga Renaissance, ‘Rize, Vadzimu Rize’ (Brick Lane Records)
Dumisani Maraire was one of Seattle’s legendary music figures, a Zimbabwean immigrant and master of Shona music who introduced it to Seattle and ergo the United States in the late ‘60s. Traditional Shona instruments include the marimba (wooden, hit with a mallet) and mbira (handheld, metal prongs thumbed).
Now Maraire’s kids are adults and making hip-hop on the local scene, and one of them, Tendai Maraire, has effectively blended the mbira into modern, electronic rap. He is mainly known for playing the instrument in the shadowy-sounding group Shabazz Palaces.
But his new digital album as the leader of the group Chimurenga Renaissance accomplishes a similar fusion while sounding sturdy and bright, and altogether very different. At the helm with Maraire is Hussein Kalonji, aka former local rapper H-Bomb, who plays guitar. The album moves forward with great momentum and is lyrically focused on topics of revolutionary struggle, family spirits and personal redefinition, all set to confident melodic lines.
The best song is “It’s Bigger Than You,” an anthem about not perpetrating stereotypes seen on TV. Other highlights include any time Maraire sings (he’s a gifted harmonizer) or whenever one of his talented rapper friends shows up: Ishmael Butler (of Shabazz Palaces), M1 (of Dead Prez) and Stas (of THEESatisfaction). The overall listening experience is like being in a car blasting hip-hop while the car next to you is blasting Peter Gabriel. There are also echoes of Run DMC, Stevie Wonder and, distantly, the elder Maraire.
Other new releases
Caetano Veloso, “Abraçaço” (Nonesuch)
Shakira, “Shakira” (RCA)
Johnny Cash, “Out Among the Stars” (Legacy)