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

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    Erica Azim

    Erica Azim is a Californian who fell in love with Shona mbira music when she first heard it at the age of 16. After studying Shona music with Dumisani Maraire at the University of Washington for two years, she decided she had to learn to play the ancient Shona mbira played in ceremonies. She began to learn the instrument by ear, using taped mbira 45's and an mbira borrowed from a professor's shelf. Leaving her studies, Erica worked singlemindedly to save money for the journey to the opposite side of the earth.

    In 1974, Erica became one of the first non-Zimbabweans to study the mbira in Zimbabwe with traditional masters of the instrument. At that time, Zimbabwe was racist Rhodesia in the throes of a liberation war. Touched by the arrival of a young white woman who respected ancient Shona tradition -- a stark contrast with the white government that reviled it -- musicians extended a warm welcome.

    Although banned by the racist Rhodesian government from visiting the rural areas which are the home of mbira tradition, Erica easily found many mbira teachers in the capital city of Harare (then Salisbury). After a first mbira lesson with a stranger on a train, Erica studied seriously with Ambuya Beauler Dyoko, Cosmas Magaya, Mondrek Muchena, Ephat Mujuru, and others. By studying with many teachers, Erica was able to develop her own personal mbira style. She later returned to Zimbabwe and studied with additional teachers, including Irene Chigamba, Tute Chigamba, Chris Mhlanga, Fradreck Mujuru, Newton Gwara, Forward Kwenda, Luken Pasipamire, Sam Mujuru, Fungai Mujuru, Leonard Chiyanike, Patience Chaitezvi, Endiby Makope, Gift Rushambwa, and Renold and Caution Shonhai. Erica is known in Zimbabwe as a gwenyambira - a skilled performer qualified to play at traditional ceremonies.

    In 1997, Erica Azim toured the U.S. with Forward Kwenda, teaching and performing. In 1998, she performed in the U.S. and Canada with Cosmas Magaya. In 2000, Erica performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC with Forward Kwenda, and they toured together in 2000, 2001 and 2002. She performed with Ambuya Beauler Dyoko during 2000 and 2001, Fradreck Mujuru in 2003, Fradreck and Fungai Mujuru in 2004, Irene Chigamba in 2006 and 2007, Vakaranga Venharetare in 2008, Patience Chaitezvi in 2009, Renold & Caution Shonhai in 2010, Caution Shonhai in 2011, and Leonard Chiyanike in 2012. She will tour with Fradreck Mujuru in 2014. Erica also performs solo mbira around the world.

    Erica has been recorded on a number of commercial CDs,of which 4 are available from MBIRA: her solo CDs Mbira Dreams and Mbira: Healing Music of Zimbabwe, Forward Kwenda’s CD Svikiro: Meditations of an Mbira Master, and one solo on the international lullaby compilation Mama's Lullaby. MBIRA released her solo CD Healing Dreams: Ancient Mbira of Zimbabwe in 2009.

    Erica is particularly adept at making mbira music accessible to American audiences and mbira students. She currently teaches regional mbira workshop groups throughout the U.S. and Canada, and internationally-attended mbira camps at her home in Berkeley, California; as well as Hawaii, Argentina, Bali and Germany. She wrote the article On Teaching Americans to Play Mbira Like Zimbabweans for the Journal of African Music.

    Erica Azim was responsible for the formation of the non-profit organization MBIRA, and directs its day-to-day operation, supporting over 250 traditonal musicians and 19 instrument makers in Zimbabwe.

    CDs Available From MBIRA

    1001 Mbira Dreams - Erica Azim 1992


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

    1005 Mbira: Healing Music of Zimbabwe

    1009 Mama's Lullaby CD - Lullabies from Mothers Around the World (including one on mbira with Erica Azim)

    3019 First Meeting: Forward Kwenda & Erica Azim 6 & 11 February 1991

    3115 Patience Chaitezvi & Erica Azim: First Meeting on 17 February 1994, with one song played by Christopher Doubt Chaitezvi

    3201 Beauler Dyoko at the Manyame River 17 April 1996: Solo & with Erica Azim

    1101 Healing Dreams: Ancient Mbira of Zimbabwe

    3458 Irene Chigamba & Erica Azim 2006: Live Mbira Concert in Berkeley, California

    3459 Vakaranga Venharetare - Live Concert in Berkeley, CA on 13 August 2008

    3474 Patience Chaitezvi & Erica Azim: Live in Berkeley 2009

    3489 Caution Shonhai & Erica Azim 2010

    3491 Leonard Chiyanike & Erica Azim 2012: Live Concert

    3605 Fradreck Mujuru & Erica Azim 2014

    Videos:







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