Just before Christmas last year I came across the new 9 track album, Ndangariro, by Northern Ireland-based Zimbabwean musician Gabriel Makamanzi and the Afresh Band. I listened, the opening track took me places, I picked up the phone and called Northern Ireland to chat with Sekuru Lavender, as Gabriel is popularly known, to find out a bit more about the band and the album.
For those who might not be conversant with Shona, Ndangariro means ‘memories’ and the album is packed with memory unlocking tracks. The opening track, Muroro, opened some special vaults of memories for me and I’ve since been listening to the album for weeks on a daily basis. The track Musango will resonate with many Zimbabweans who have uprooted themselves from Zimbabwe and settled in many parts of the world away from family. If you love Zimbabwean music then you have to give this album a go. For the mbira lover, mbira is at the forefront, playing some traditional tunes as well as some contemporary ones.
At this point, as I am busy listening to the album again, all I can do is recommend that you take a listen to the album on Bandcamp and get yourself a copy.
What you might need to know
Led by Gabriel, the band consists of Irish Traditional, Folk, Funk, Jazz, Latin and Reggae musicians who have added their own flavour to the music though it retains a distinctly Zimbabwean base. As Gabriel shared and taught Zimbabwean music to the band, he also drew inspiration from their backgrounds. In the music you find the use of Irish instrumentation such as banjo, bodhrán, tin whistle and flute, producing a delicious musical experience (if I may abuse the culinary word).
A bit about Gabriel
From a young age Gabriel knew he wanted to be a musician; he started off playing the dried masekesa tree seed-pods as shakers and singing gospel songs while he herded cattle as a youngster in the countryside.
After moving to Harare he joined a mbira group called the Mighty Spiders Crew from Mbare. He also played at traditional ceremonies with Garikai Tirikoti, a renowned Zimbabwean mbira player and maker, who was also his mentor and tutor. Later on Gabriel was spotted by Andy Brown and The Storm, who took him to the UK on a tour in 2002.
Thereafter Gabriel settled in the UK and later moved to Northern Ireland. Besides leading his own band, he also plays in the current Blacks Unlimited of Thomas Mapfumo when they are touring the UK . Thomas Mapfumo considers Gabriel’s hosho playing to be an indispensable part of his band whenever he is on tour.
Follow Gabriel Makamanzi and The Afresh Band on Facebook.