Review | Songlines

At the Studio

Top of the World

Rating: ★★★★★

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Album and Artist Details


The Zonke Family




The Zonke family hail from Nyampanda, a small border town on the Zimbabwean side of the boundary with Mozambique. They are also the knowledge bearers and masters of the matepe, a large mbira (thumb piano) of the Marembe people. Here, three of the family – Anthony Zonke, Crispen Zonke and Chief Boyi Nyamande – share this age-old knowledge with the world.

So often mbira music is mixed with guitars, drum kits and synths, but its true power is most evident when it is allowed to stand alone as it is here. It’s very refreshing to hear the music presented in this way – just the interlocking lines of the matepe, the polyrhythms of the hosho (rattles) and the overlapping yodels from all three participants. The power remains even when the musicians put down the matepe; ‘Tinotengana Kuipa’ is all ngoma (drums) and voice and is just as enchanting and entrancing. It’s a sound that reflects back your own headspace. Light and airy, heavy and deep, it all depends on how much you choose to fall into the music. It’s a shame the album is so short. The force of the music is so irresistible that it feels like it could go on unabated for hours and hours on into the infinite.


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