Zimfest 2014

July 24-27 — University of Puget Sound — Tacoma, WA

Performer Biographies

Anzanga Marimba Ensemble

Seattle, WA

Anzanga has been performing for 27 years throughout the U.S. and internationally. The group, led by Sheree Seretse, performs traditional and contemporary marimba music from Zimbabwe and beyond.

The Big Bad Monkeys Youth Marimba Band

Bellingham, WA

The Big Bad Monkeys is comprised of eight young musicians, ages 14 - 17, and their director, Deb Dole. Originally, the Monkeys performed as 4th - 6th graders in 2008 after building the marimbas as part of a year-long class project. Three of the original members are still playing with the band, and three former members have gone on to become part of other marimba bands in the area. The Big Bad Monkeys play the exuberant rhythms of Zimbabwe and southern Africa and combine soprano, tenor, baritone and bass marimbas with hosho, hand drums and vocals. The music is upbeat, danceable and family-oriented. They have delighted audiences with energy-filled performances in and around the Bellingham area for five years. The sight and sound of these youth playing marimba is irresistible. Watching the young musicians play the giant baritone and bass is unlike anything you've ever seen or heard before.

Boka Marimba

Portland, OR

Boka Marimba had its beginnings in a series of workshops with Dr. Dumisani Maraire and Ephat Mujuru in 1987. Since then, the band has worked with many Zimbabwean musicians. Several members have spent time in Africa studying the music and have extensive experience teaching marimba and/or mbira in Oregon schools, community centers and music studios. The members of Boka Marimba have diverse musical backgrounds, including jazz, percussion and voice, in addition to many, many collective years immersed in Shona music. Boka Marimba strives to create fun, current, danceable music, rooted in authentic ZImbabwean rhythms and styles.

Chinyakare Ensemble

Oakland, CA

"Tawanda muChinyakare" means "we are many, all in the deep tradition of the arts of our ancestors," in chiShona, a native language of Zimbabwe. The phrase speaks of a profound unity experienced through living in harmony with the deep traditions of our ancestors. Tawanda muChinyakare is a bridge between cultures, tribes, elders, youth, and ancestors, which seeks to introduce new cultural perspectives, strengthen positive aspects of heritage, and expand cultural imagination through facilitating events, classes and community gatherings. Tawanda muChinyakare invites us to experience the true power of community through the context of traditional music and dance.

Cosmas Magaya

Mhondoro, Zimbabwe

Cosmas Magaya is an internationally recognized master of the mbira dzavadzimu. As a performer, mbira teacher and leader of the mbira ensemble Mhuri yekwa Magaya, he has gained national and international acclaim for his extraordinary talent as a musician and teacher in the Zimbabwean music traditions.
As a performer, he has completed several international tours with mbira ensembles Mhuri yekwa Rwizi and Zimbabwe Group Leaders Mbira Ensemble, including two in Europe and two in the United States. His performances are featured on a number of critically acclaimed CDs, including the 2014 release, Ndangariro, with the late Ambuya Beauler Dyoko. As a mbira master musician and respected teacher, Cosmas has been invited to teach master classes at top universities including Stanford, Northwestern and Duke, as well as numerous other universities throughout the U.S. and Canada. In addition to performing and teaching, Cosmas has, since 1971, collaborated with ethnomusicologist Dr. Paul Berliner, doing field research on Shona traditional music that has resulted in a scholarly book, The Soul of Mbira.


Eugene, OR & elsewhere

We are Hokoyo Marimba, playing traditional and contemporary Zimbabwean dance music on seven marimbas, traditional Zimbabwean mbira and drum set. Originally from Eugene, we've become geographically distributed over the last few years, getting together to perform at Zimfests and other events.

Jekesa Marimba

Tacoma, WA

Based in Tacoma, with members hailing from Japan, Zimbabwe and U.S.A., Jekesa Marimba represents a true fusion of cultures. The name "Jekesa" is chiShona for "light-bringer", and was formed from the names of the three core members ("Je" from Jeff, "Ke" from Kensuke and "Sa" representing Mandla's father's name). A relatively new group, Jekesa plays a stripped-down set of marimbas with lots of room for improvisation, and their repertoire ranges from contemporary chimurenga and pop covers to traditional mbira music.

Joel Laviolette

Austin, TX

Joel Laviolette has played mbira dzavadzimu for 20 years. He first went to Zimbabwe in 1998 after traveling the U.S. and Canada to learn from everyone he could. He went again in 1999 - 2001 and lived and studied with Newton Gwara; they formed a band and toured Zimbabwe regularly. There, he also formed Mhumhi Records, a non-profit record label dedicated to preserving the rarer types of Zimbabwean music. He now lives in Austin and directs the Rattletree School of Marimba and Kupira Marimba, and leads the band Rattletree Marimba. He frequently travels nationally and internationally, teaching and giving workshops on this sacred and beautiful music. He recently returned from a trip to Zimbabwe, where he was studying matepe with Matomati Zonke.

Katura Marimba

San Juan Islands, WA

Katura Marimba is an evolving collective of musicians from the San Juan Islands. Our repertoire includes Shona-style marimba music, mbira-style marimba arrangements and original compositions.

Kurai & Friends

Vancouver BC

(no bio given)


Bellingham, WA

Our band plays both traditional and contemporary African songs on marimba, mbira, drums and voices. Teenagers and adults join together to play this joyful music. "Kuungana" itself is a kiSwahili word that means "to connect or join." This lively, danceable music will get your feet tapping and your hips swaying in time to the complex, enticing rhythms. Listeners often call this "happy music," and people of all ages respond to it with enthusiasm and delight. We in the band play this amazing music for the joy it brings to us and to the audience. The lead marimba carries the musical storyline, the other marimbas carry the melodic patterns that weave through the song and the traditional hosho hold the driving beat. It all comes together in a tapestry of music guaranteed to get you out of your seat and onto the dance floor. Our band consists of three former members of the now-retired Juba Marimba and three current and former members of The Big Bad Monkeys, a youth marimba band that is also here at Zimfest this year.
We happily share our music through performances, parties, gatherings, fairs, benefits and school workshops. ENJOY!

Loveness Wesa & The Bantus

Portland, OR

(no bio given)

Mahonyera Mbira Ensemble

Seattle, WA

The Seattle-based ensemble Mahonyera performs traditional mbira music of the Shona people of Zimbabwe. Three to four mbira players perform complex interlocking patterns on the 22 - 24 key mbira dzavadzimu and are accompanied by hosho (gourd shakers) and vocals. Mahonyera members, most of whom have spent time studying in Zimbabwe, are: Claire Jones, Kevin Ugarte, Sheree Seretse, Phillip Page and Sooja Kelsey.
Mahonyera, in the chiShona language, is a style of low-pitched syllabic singing. It also refers to “the sound of distant voices."

Mukana Marimba

Olympia, WA

Mukana has been playing around the south Puget Sound since the late 1990s.

Musekiwa Chingodza

Marondera, Zimbabwe

Musekiwa Chingodza was born into a family of great mbira players in Mwangara village, Murewa, Zimbabwe, in 1970. He began playing mbira at the age of five and is self-taught. Through listening to other gwenyambira, or great mbira players, he developed a strong attachment to and love for mbira music. He says, “Our music is both medicine and food, as mbira has the power to heal and to provide for people. Mbira pleases both the living and the dead.” In 1991 Musekiwa was a key member of the band Panjea, founded by Chris Berry. He composed the hit song “Ganda” on Panjea’s Zimbabwean album. He taught mbira at Prince Edward School in Harare for many years, and continues to be in demand to play mbira at ceremonies in Zimbabwe. Since 1999, he has been a regular visitor to the U.S., sponsored biennially by Kutsinhira Cultural Arts Center in Eugene, Oregon. Kutsinhira considers Musekiwa to be one of our primary teachers, as well as one of the greatest living mbira musicians. Musekiwa is an excellent singer, dancer and drummer and plays both mbira dzavadzimu and nyunga nyunga. He arranges and teaches Zimbabwean-style marimba, and loves to work with children, youth, and adults. Following up on his widely acclaimed CD with Jennifer Kyker, entitled Tsunga, Musekiwa released his CD VaChingodza Budai Pachena; his solo CD, Kutema Musasa (2005); a second collaboration with Jennifer Kyker, Muronda Tsimba (2009); and his latest CD, with Bud Cohen, Tomutenda Mambo (2011). Musekiwa is also an accomplished ngoma (drum) player in the Shona tradition, and he excels in playing hosho (gourd shakers), singing, marimba and traditional dance. He is very experienced at teaching all of these skills to North Americans in a friendly and supportive way. Musekiwa has enjoyed many successful North American tours, often accompanied by his friend and mbira partner, Bud Cohen. With his engaging personality, gentle teaching style, virtuoso mbira playing ability and deep immersion in his culture, he is almost always asked to come back for repeat visits.

Mutswi Wambuya

Eugene, OR

"Mutswi Wambuya" means "rainbow" in chiShona. We are a group from the Kutsinhira Marimba Center in Eugene. We started playing over eight years ago and have steadily been building our repertoire and following. Past teachers include Musekiwa Chingodza, Jacob Mafuleni, Bongo Love, Hokoyo, and Nathan Beck, Jeff Brahe and Eric Miller.


Whidbey Island, WA

Mweya is "big band" marimba, with seven to nine marimbas, drums, saxophone, singing and dancing. Mweya has been playing together for four years at Rubatano Center. Our music is high energy, danceable and fun!

Nhapitapi Mbira

Toronto, Canada

Nhapitapi Mbira is a Toronto-based band which presents the rich musical and dance traditions of Zimbabwe. Blending the sounds of mbira melodies, vocals, traditional percussion and guitar, they brew a sonic experience that is traditional in its spiritual depth, but also contemporary as they continue to expand upon the traditional elements of the music and weave it with their own compositions and arrangements. Over the past five years, Nhapitapi has entertained diverse audiences in Canada and the United States at festivals such as Afrofest and Zimfest. The group also released their first demo recording in 2013, which has been well-received. Nhapitapi's interest is to present mbira music as a living classical genre, which is entertaining and healing. To this end, they are excited to share their music and workshops at Zimfest once more.

Njuzu Mbira

Portland, OR

Njuzu Mbira was formed in 1998 as Portland's first ensemble to perform the beautiful, lively traditional mbira music of the Shona people of Zimbabwe. The group has continued to do so ever since, at many types of venues and events.


Boulder, CO

Nyamatsatse is the mbira duo of Cory Potash and Katharine Noll. We have been playing mbira for seven years. We found refuge in mbira after retiring from half a decade of playing the marimba. Prior to becoming Nyamatsatse we played with the mbira quartet Imbwa Huru and on occasion with ZiMBiRA and Friends. We embrace the healing qualities of traditional mbira music and enjoy sharing it with a broad section of our community. This includes weekly meditation gigs, playing for assisted living communities, creating high school mbira circles and sharing the magic of this music with preschoolers.

Ruvara Marimba

Bellingham, WA

Ruvara Marimba is an energetic nine-member band from Bellingham, Washington that plays joyous Zimbabwean dance music on marimbas (wooden-key xylophones) and hosho (dried gourd shakers) combined with drums, ethereal mbira and vibrant vocal harmonies. Nathan Matson, our percussionist, adds an exciting groove to our music with his enthusiastic hand and drum set playing. We play for festivals, private parties and other special events in and around Whatcom and Skagit Counties.


Whidbey Island, WA

Sarungano is a mbira singing group rich in rolling vocal harmonies, accompanied by drums and hosho. Sarungano is inspired by the rich cultural activity of Rubatano Center on Whidbey Island and the many visiting Zimbabwean guest teachers. Sarungano's name translates as "Storyteller." Sarungano members are Dana Moffett, Dyanne Harshman, Leslie Breeden and Donita Crosby. We have been learning the beautiful, complex music of Zimbabwe for a number of years. Along with the complex African rhythms are the chiShona words that tell of everyday life and traditions in Zimbabwe. We sing in the chiShona language but also tell, in English, what the stories are about. Sarungano's many teachers include Paul Mataruse, Tendai Muparutsa, Jacob Mafuleni, Martha Thom, Musekiwa Chingodza, Mbira dzeMuninga, Claire Jones, Piwai Magaya and Hope Masike.

Sellwood Marimba Band - Tamba

Portland, OR

The Sellwood Marimba Band had its beginning 16 years ago in a small choir room at Sellwood Middle School, which is a public school in Portland. Heidi Perry and other teachers would practice their marimbas during rainy-day lunch breaks and invite students to play along. Thanks to volunteers from the Portland marimba community, the Sellwood PTA, The Portland Foundation and private donations, Heidi has been able to build a sustainable marimba music program at Sellwood. Our marimbas do not have F-sharps. The music we play is mostly from Zimbabwe and Botswana, taught to us by local teachers – Nathan Beck, MyLinda King, Suzanne Parker and Chris Christian, to name a few. We also include some popular songs in our repertoire. The students who are coming to Zimfest this year are dedicated 6th - 8th graders who meet before and after school to practice, learn new songs and bond as a group. We have played around our community including Pioneer and Unitas Square lunch concerts, The Rose Festival, The Festival of Flowers, several retirement homes, elementary schools, neighborhood celebrations, Sellwood Bar-B-Q, Mhembero Marimba Celebrations and at the Celebration of the Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel. We have been fortunate to be able to perform at ZImfest in the afternoon concerts in 2002, 2003 and 2008 – 2012. During Zimfest, Sellwood students look forward with anticipation to meeting other kids from near and far who share their love of marimba music.


Hood River, OR

Shoko is a student group of middle school and high school youth. They play at the Musango Studio in Hood River with their teacher, Karin Tauscher. Most of them are new to performing but are excited to begin this next phase of their marimba adventure!

Shumba Marimba Ensemble

Seattle, WA

Shumba is a high energy, multi-talented group of young people ranging in age from 17 to 20 years. They have been performing together for nine years and have toured extensively throughout the West Coast and New York. The group has two recordings to its credit. Shumba have worked with their director, Sheree Seretse, and with Sheasby Matiure, Michael Sibanda, Garadziva Chigamba and Jeff Brahe to develop their repertoire.


Boulder, CO

This group consists of graduates of the Shamwari and Tamba! youth bands at the Kutandara Center in Boulder, under the direction of Randy McIntosh and Amy Stewart-McIntosh.
We now all reside in various cities around the globe, building new lives and communities. However, the passion for marimba and Zimbabwean music is still alive in every one of Yeukai's members. We're coming together this year to play and perform with a new sound and unique blend of energies. Using the foundation of knowledge and skills gathered throughout our years learning marimba in Boulder, we are excited to present at Zimfest a band representing culmination and rebirth.

Zambuko Marimba Ensemble

Seattle, WA

Zambuko African-American Marimba Ensemble performs music from Zimbabwe and Kenya. The eight-member, Seattle-based ensemble has been performing for five years. In addition to marimba, they play traditional rhythms on drums accompanied by singing from Kenya. Zambuko has performed in western Washington and in Limon, Costa Rica.


Boulder, CO

ZiMBiRA specializes in the traditional and contemporary music of Zimbabwe. The music is grounded in the mbira, its ancient repertoire and the beat of the hosho, and evolves as the beautiful lines are reflected on the marimba and guitar. Instrumentation of the moment may include mbira, karimba, guitar, acoustic bass, vocals, hosho, marimba, hand drums, penny whistle, dance and more. Founded by mbira traditionalists Catherine Hunziker and David Schaldach, the group plays venues in and around Boulder.