MBIRA - the non-profit organization devoted to Shona mbria music

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    Forward Kwenda   

    Biography

    Forward Kwenda was born 5 April 1963 in the rural Buhera area of Zimbabwe, an area known for its fierce resistance to colonial rulers and respect for Shona tradition. As a young boy, Forward excelled in traditional dance and recitation of ancient poetry. At the age of 10, he began to play ngoma (drums) and hosho (gourd rattles) for his mother's gombwe (rain-making) spirit. He was given the name "Forward" because of his curiosity about many subjects, enthusiastic involvement in many activities and his singing for liberation war freedom fighters.

    By 1985, Forward was playing in a unusually complex style - much to the amazement of master mbira players two and three generations his senior. This style was first recorded in 1985 and 1986 by his American friend Glenn Makuna (see MBIRA tapes nos. 56, 57, 58, 143), who dubbed Kwenda "the Coltrane of mbira."

    Asked about his experience of playing mbira, Forward responds:

    "When I pick up my mbira, I don't know what is going to happen. The music just goes by itself, taking me higher and higher until I can end up crying because the music is so much greater than a human being can understand." and "I just have to get out of the way so spirits can make my mbira play."

    In 1997, Kwenda toured the US with Erica Azim, and they recorded the Shanachie CD Svikiro: Meditations of an Mbira Master. 1n 1999, Azim's field recording of Kwenda on a Zimbabwean mountaintop at sunset was included on Ellipsis Arts' Trance 3 CD.   In February 2000, Kwenda performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC with Erica Azim, and they toured North America during 2000, 2001 and 2002.

    The MBIRA Recordings Library includes several recordings of Kwenda.

    CDs/Downloads Available From MBIRA

    1002 Svikiro: Meditations of an Mbira Master - Forward Kwenda (with Erica Azim)

    1004 Trance 3

    3213 Tadzungaira: A Prayer to End All Suffering - Forward Kwenda 1996-7 (Gandanga/Mavembe tuning)

    3214 Tadzungaira yepasi - Forward Kwenda 1997 (Nyamaropa tuning)

    3254 Forward Kwenda 29 July 1998 - Mavembe/Gandanga Tuning Mbira

    3269 Forward Kwenda at Mbizi Game Park 30n April 1999 - Nyamaropa & Nemakonde Tuning Mbira & vocals

    3275 Forward Kwenda & Erica Azim 1999 House concert in Berkeley

    3276 Mahororo & More - Forward Kwenda 2000

    3309 Katsanzaira Tuning Collection - Forward Kwenda 2000

    3400 Chakwi- Forward Kwenda 2001 (Nyamaropa tuning)

    3401 Nighttime Nemakonde - Forward Kwenda 2001 (Nemakonde tuning)

    3405 Nemakonde Through the Night - Forward Kwenda 2002 (Nemakonde tuning)

    3418 Forward Kwenda - Dambatsoko Tuning 2002

    3419 Spirit Power - Forward Kwenda 2002 (Gandanga/Mavembe tuning)

    3457 Forward Kwenda 2006 (Bass Nemakonde tuning)

    MBIRA, Box 7863, Berkeley, CA 94707-0863, USA, tel (510) 548-6053, email info@mbira.org