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MF GALAXY

MF GALAXY is a weekly podcast powered by four mighty engines: * Writers on writing: the craft and the business * Pop culture including TV, movies, graphic novels, and more * Progressive politics, activism, and social enterprise * Africentric change-makers, histories, cultures, art, and more! Mixing brand-new interviews with classic conversations (from my archive of 23 years in broadcasting) with famous and dynamic figures in the arts, Hollywood, and politics, MF GALAXY will take you to places you've never been before, and deliver fresh insights on the places you've been.
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Now displaying: October, 2017
Oct 18, 2017

What is the Zimbabwean musical instrument called the mbira? It’s a wooden resonator box with metal keys, called kalimba in Cameroon and thumb piano in the West, although “chime-box” offers a better description of the instrument’s sound. Its pristine voice is perfectly suited to cathedrals, ancient caves, and modern concert halls. But the origins of the mbira are lost in the mists of time.

Westerners who know mbira most likely do so from the work of Zimbabwe’s Thomas Mapfumo, a fusion musician who helped resurrect the mbira which the British colonial dictatorship had banned because of its religious and cultural gravity. Mapfumo’s chimurenga (struggle) style was a cultural-nationalist concoction that changed modern Zimbabwean music, seizing it back from its own Euro-American aesthetic occupation.

But today’s guest has a different path to and with the mbira. It’s not often a musician tells you an origin story that sounds like a quest straight out of the pages of an Africentric epic fantasy novel. But that’s the scenario that Edmonton’s Chaka Zinyemba unfurled about how he discovered and later learned to play the mbira, the leading instrument of Zimbabwe’s classical music. I’ll let him tell you that story, and about his royal lineage, in just a moment.

In 2012, Chaka Zinyemba released his debut album Tariro with his cousin Freemantle Nhembo playing bass mbira and hosho (or maracas). Both provided vocals. Zinyemba played traditional songs using mbirahuru (great mbira), also called mbirahurudzavadzimu (the great mbira of the ancestors). That instrument was once used particularly during Shona religious ceremonies (or mapira) which often lasted through the night, the mbira music lifting people into a hypnotic, ecstatic state.

Zinyemba’s album Tariro is a beautiful, sensitive, soulful album. Hearing it, one feels the caress of the clouds and tastes the shimmer of moonlight. You can find the album on BandCamp and iTunes and probably elsewhere.

When I spoke with Zinyemba in February 2012, he told me had no plans to become a full-time musician; back then he was studying Human Geography at the University of Alberta in Edmonton with a minor in Music and a focus on disaster management, health planning, and urban planning. He also volunteered with the Kenyan Red Cross. But he did hope to collaborate with other musicians and develop spoken word albums featuring his musicianship.

Let’s hear all about his music, his plans, and his history of the mbira and its music in my conversation with Chaka Zinyemba on MF GALAXY.

Chaka Zinyemba on BandCamp, where you can also inquire about mbira lessons

Chaka Zinyemba and the Mbira Renaissance Band

 

Chaka Zinyemba mini-concert for CKUA

 

Chaka Zinyemba: Totemism in the 21st Century

Documentary: Mbira - Spirit of the People (Thomas Mapfumo, Oliver Mtukudzi)

Thomas Mapfumo unplugged: Kuenda

 

Chiwoniso Maraire

Chiwoniso Maraire: “In This Life”

How to Play the Kalimba & Mbira

Electric Kalimba – EH Bass micro synth by Psychiceyeclix

 

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Oct 3, 2017

Natasha Deen is pretty awesome. She’s a YA and children’s writer who’s written more than a dozen books, including The Not So Secret Case Files of Billy Vale, P.I., the Guardian series, and the Retribution series. She criss-crosses Canada teaching new writers and visiting classrooms, and she’s won a string of accolades including nominations for the Sunburst and the Alberta Readers’ Choice Award and wins for the Moonbeam, CCBC Best Pick for Kids and Teens.

Readers keep coming back for her mix of mystery, action, horror, and humour, some of which arise from her own real-life experiences, and teachers keep booking her because her workshops and teaching guides offer genuine value.

Deen met with me at the food court of Westmount Mall in Edmonton on September 26, 2017. She discussed: 

  • How studying psychology can help you become a better writer and the major insight it gave her into herself
  • What makes YA different from other niches, how it can change lives, and how writing it can make you sell more books in any category
  • The new fiction category that might be your best writing and marketting niche
  • The power of names: from pen names to those stolen from her ancestors
  • How writing can make you physically and mentally healthier
  • How your YA writing can help kids become superheroes

 

natashadeen.com

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