Zim artiste makes mark in USA

HARARE - When Zimbabwe-born musician, Piwai, relocated to the United States of America  (USA) after quitting medical school, she hardly imagined that she would end up collaborating with 2017 Grammy Award winner Fantastic Negrito.

Piwai, who left Zimbabwe for the US 17 years ago, featured on Negrito’s album Last Days of Oakland which landed the 2017 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album.

“To date I have collaborated with Fantastic Negrito, even playing percussion on his 2017 Grammy Award-winning album Last Days of Oakland.

“I have also performed with several established stars such as Cuba Gooding Sr. of the Main Ingredient (Emmy Awardee multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer), Allan Phillips, Bateke Beat — formally Bateke Bateke (Fela Kuti’s saxophone protege), SeneAfrica (the Kora and guitar duo), and am currently a member of the group Zulu Spear.

“I have also played and toured with renowned groups such as Soukouss Stars, Shimita el Diego, and Lokassa Ya Mbongo,” said Piwai.

Away from collaborations, the Zimbabwe-born songstress has released an EP titled African Turquoise, and a single titled Plus de S.I.D.A featuring Ivory Coast’s Mano Black.

“I have an extensive catalogue of unreleased tracks featuring various notable artistes and producers. My music has been well-received in the US. My EP release was critically acclaimed and I often play to sold-out venues.

“Although based in Oakland, California, I frequently travel between Los Angeles and San Diego, California, and New York City for recording and performance sessions,” she said.

But how did it all begin?

“I have always been a storyteller. During my childhood I would create tales, leading naturally into my ability to write prolific lyrics today.

“At age 10, I started playing music, learning percussion, and singing with the church choir. By 13, I was writing and performing my own songs,” Piwai told the Daily News.

When the rising songstress moved to US, she decided to focus on pursuing a career in music.

“At 26 I picked up the mbira after a nirvana of sorts and the beckoning of gwenyambira maestro, Cosmas Magaya.

“I held my first mbira from Magaya while he was a visiting resident artist resident at Duke University with ethnomusicologist, Paul Berliner.

“I learnt the nyunga nyunga mbira from renowned poet, mbira player, and composer Trust Mtekwa,” said Piwai, adding:

“I am an artiste that uses music to sooth and heal. I bring a sense of renewed energy to my crowds through riveting vocals, traditional rhythms, and sharp melodies from ancestral instruments of my homeland Zimbabwe.

“I am multi-instrumentalist, who easily flows from mbira, congas, djembe hosho/maracas to the shekere.”

Though she has been based in the US for the past 17 years, Piwai remains proud to associate with her land of birth.

“The name of my band is Zimbabwe Mystics. The band members are Oscar “Don Dada” Harper on drums, Adam Hughes on guitar, Kevin Goldberg on bass, Maya Vilaplana on backing vocals and am on mbira, congas, hosho and vocals,” she said.

In a bid to remain connected to her Zimbabwean heritage, Piwai is continually seeking opportunities to work with fellow Zimbabwean artistes in the US.

“Since 2007 I have shared the stage with the high-energy dance ensemble, Chinyakare led by world famous Julia Chigamba.

“I also take pride in having performed with majority of the marimba and mbira groups strewn from Seattle, Washington to Santa Cruz, California.

“I am also working with Brian Soko (Grammy Award-winning Zimbabwean songwriter and record producer based in the USA) on upcoming releases,” said the artiste.

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