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Chartwell Dutiro

Chartwell Dutiro's mbira playing takes the listener direct to the heart of his homeland Zimbabwe which is also the country of origin of the mbira itself. Right from the young age of 4 years Chartwell began to play this ancient instrument. He and his brother and teacher would often play mbira all night, calling the ancestral spirits for guidance, as has been done in Zimbabwe over centuries. Mbira music has played a very important but changing role in Zimbabwe’s recent history. The playing of mbira was banned by missionaries in colonial Rhodesia as they wrongly associated it with devil worship. During the Chimurenga liberation struggle in the 1970s mbira was crucial to politicising and encouraging people as it used hidden messages in Shona metaphor. In the 1980s popular and traditional mbira music took on a new symbolism of the independent nation of Zimbabwe.
As a teenager Chartwell moved to the capital, Harare, and became saxophonist with the Salvation Army band. A little later, in 1986, he joined the world-famous band Thomas Mapfumo & the Blacks Unlimited. Touring the world for eight years with that band, he was their arranger, mbira player and saxophonist. Since 1994 Chartwell has been based in Britain where he teaches and performs mbira.
Chartwell is very involved in cross-cultural endeavours such as Ingoma, a company that promotes African music projects. He collaborated with refugee musicians from all over Africa in another significant project, the anniversary celebrations of the UNHCR.
Chartwell has academic qualifications in music, including a degree in Ethnomusicology from SOAS in London where he also taught for many years. Chartwell gets chances to tour in Britain and worldwide, for example in 2001 he went on a UK WOMAD tour with the Drummers of Burundi and Tananas. Then in 2002 Chartwell was at the WOMAD festivals in Singapore, Australia and also Reading where he conducted a workshop. Chartwell composed and plays the music for Fraser Grace's 2005 play 'Breakfast with Mugabe' showing at London's Soho

Theatre in April 2006.
Chartwell’s solo album, released in 2000, is entitled Voices of Ancestors. He also has several recordings on CD in which he plays with the band Spirit Talk Mbira: Ndonga Mahwe (1997), Nhime (1999), Dzoro (2000) and Taanerimwe. Taking that CD as an example, some of the songs are full of advice to people about daily living, others are about traditions. Taanerimwe is the result of a link between the Zimbabwe College of Music in Harare, and SOAS in London, both of which are places Chartwell has studied. The link, which now also includes the Gateway School of Sound Recording and Music Technology, was facilitated by Ingoma and recorded live at Gateway. Spirit Talk Mbira is a band formed by musicians from Europe and Zimbabwe. They have recently been joined by two more very talented Zimbabweans - Netsayi Chigwendere (vocalist and mbira player) and Anna Mudeka (dancer). Their mbira music is adapted onto guitar, bass and drums but remains true to mbira tradition.
Traditionally the instruments that accompany the mbira are hosho shakers and hand clapping with ululating. The sound from the mbira's metal keys is amplified naturally by placing it in a gourd (deze) which will also have bottle tops or shells attached for extra effects. The infectious sound of mbira music has complex rhythms that can be enjoyed in different ways depending on the individual listener – for dancing or reflection.
Chartwell’s vision and commitment is to spread mbira music worldwide: no one is better placed to make this happen than he.