With certain artists, the craft runs so pure in the blood that simply bearing witness to their work has the power to transport you to another time and place. Piwai is such an artist. Her soulful voice and dynamic stage presence command attention while offering a transformational experience. Her passion for song, dance, and community is a gift to the world. Born in Zimbabwe, Piwai was surrounded by music from an early age. Her first influences include music from the Shona and Ndebele people of Zimbabwe, Suthu and Zulu tribes, and the Zimbabwean Catholic Church. She joined her first choir at the age of 10, wrote her first song at age of 13, and hasn’t stopped since. Piwai went on to study under renowned percussionists Yagbe Onilu and Butch Haynes, trained vocally at the Jazz School of Berkeley, and delved into the mbira—a traditional African instrument associated with profound spiritual union—with maestro Cosmas Magaya.
As an incredibly gifted songwriter, Piwai captures both the delicate and the difficult aspects of life. She fearlessly explores the wide realm of the human condition—from raising awareness about war to capturing the inner world of children. Her lyrics evoke a powerful healing force. A deep commitment to crossing borders and uniting cultures has broadened Piwai’s musical horizons to vast proportions. She taps into a variety of musical roots, drawing from an eclectic blend of rabi, jazz, blues, traditional folk and reggae. She flows easily from one genre to the next and one language to another, including English, Shona, French, Spanish, Lingala, Zulu, Xhosa, Swahili, Georgian, and Turkish Judeo Spanish.
Empowered by constant expression, Piwai’s creative gifts continue to expand. She began conducting workshops to facilitate dialogue between Christianity and African religions, with a book forthcoming. She also sponsors several orphanages in support of HIV orphans and victims of childhood molestation. She has worked alongside Makeda Dread at the WorldBeat Center in San Diego and the non-profit African Wellness Initiative alongside Angela Gora. She taught music to youth at the Center for World Music and The Young Musicians Academy. A Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, a Minor in Chemistry, a Master’s of Science in Analytical Chemistry, and several tennis scholarships round out this diversely talented being.
Unquestionably, music is an umbilical cord that connects Piwai’s insightful perspective to the universal pulse. She is inseparable from melody and movement; a vehicle for the healing and inspiring properties of sound. For Piwai, music is all-encompassing: “The sum total of my very existence and every action I make manifests in music—the rhythm of my life.”
In early 2012, Piwai travelled to Zimbabwe to record her first album, “African Turquoise.” The album is written, composed, and produced by Piwai, in collaboration with James Buzuzi of Bongolove. It is a fascinating fusion of jazz and traditional African rhythms, including mbira and percussion from Jacob Mafuleni and John Mambira. Due for release in Fall 2012, “African Turquoise” is being launched alongside a non-profit for HIV orphans.
The album concept reflects that which is most sacred in Africa: the gift of life and its perpetual progression. True to form, Piwai’s songwriting prowess and percussive genius takes the listener on a journey: glimpse life through the eyes of children in war-torn Congo; walk the streets of Harare; bear witness to the slums of Soweto, India, and the favelas of Brazil; or play along the proverbial paths of Zimbabwean folklore.
“African Turquoise” brings a bold appreciation to the suffering of humanity while reinforcing the direct connection people have with the universe—empowering healing and evolution.
She has performed vocals, dance, and percussion to the following:
Fafi aka 3percent (Zimbabwean Afrobeat)-lead vocals
Lindi Yeni & Kuumba House (Traditional South African)-lead narrative vocals/dance
Emman Legrand & Rhythmixx Band (Congolese Rumba and Soukouss)-vocals/dance
Shimita El Diego & Soukouss Stars (Congolese Soukouss)-vocals
Mano Black (Ivory Coast Coupe de Cale Fusion)-vocals
Maty Dollar (Ivory Coast Coupe de Cale Fusion)-vocals
Kelly Takunda Orphan (Oakland/Armenian and Zimbabwean Fusion)-vocals
Julia Chigamba & Chinyakare Dance Ensemble (Zimbabwean Traditional)-vocals/hosho
Speedy Beers & Full Energy (San Diego Rock Band)-vocals
Akaaya & Bolga Zoodoomah (Ghana Highlife)-vocals
Bateke Beat (Afrobeat, Latin, and Funk Fusion)-vocals
Zimbeat (Traditional Zimbabwean Afrobeat)-lead vocals/hosho
Forward Kwenda (Mbira)-hosho
Cosmas Magaya (Mbira)-hosho
Monette Marino-Keita (African and Latin)-mbira
Fish Tank Ensemble-vocals
Kwami & Technical Support
Sadza Marimba & Mawungira eNharira
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