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
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
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
in April 2006.
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
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