AMP homeEventsSpecial featuresRecommended cdsRecommended readingVarious photosContact AMPRelevant links
Stella Chiweshe

Stella Rambisai Chiweshe is Zimbabwe's Queen of Mbira and is the great grand daughter of Munaka, the resistance fighter who was hanged by the British during their occupation of Zimbabwe. Mbira is so much a part of Stella's life that she is almost synonomous with it! How did she come to acquire that status? Right from the first time she heard the captivating sound of mbira, the traditional 'thumb piano', Stella was determined to learn how to play it so she'd be able to hear it all the time, even though it was almost unheard of for women to play mbira.
The iron keys of an mbira are mounted on a wooden board which can then be put inside large gourd resonator. Stella likens the 23 keys of her mbira to 23 voices.
In the Shona culture of Zimbabwe there are special ceremonies during which mbira sounds connect with spirits of those who have died. The unwritten lyrics of the songs in Shona can come through dreams and visions and are so deep that few people can understand them. To begin with, before independence in Zimbabwe, Stella attended these 'underground' ceremonies at night and then during the day worked as a maid. After independence she soon assumed a leading role as mbira player and dancer in the National Dance Company of Zimbabwe. With her outstanding abilities Stella directs the Mother Earth Trust - Network of Female Artists in Zimbabwe and helped form the Zimbabwe Musicians Union.
Stella sings and composes, leads her own band, Earthquake, has had a very successful career internationally and was based in Germany for a number of

years. Many of her relatives, including her daughter, Virginia Mukwesha, play mbira too. Stella was the first recording artist of the Piranha label ( in 1987. Her CDs available are Ambuya (1987), Chisi (1990), Shungu (1994), Talking Mbira - Spirits of Liberation (2002) and Double Check (2006). In the notes with the Talking Mbira CD Stella tells 3 stories about mbira and its effects on people. Double Check is special because it is Piranha's 100th album and as the name suggests it's a double album: CD1 is Trance Hits and CD2 Classic Hits (there are 10 new titles and 12 re-releases).
The photo above was taken in London at the Spitz in 2002 at one of Stella's solo performances, during which you can tell she is also an actress. She is very dignified and completely engages her audience with the beautiful flowing sound of mbira, making spontaneous observations, special use of the microphone and sound effects.