Stella Chiweshe (also Stella Rambisai Chiweshe, Stella Rambisai Chiweshe Nekati, or Stella Nekati Chiweshe, born 8 July 1946 in Mujumi Village, Mhondoro, Zimbabwe) is a Zimbabwean musician. She is internationally known for her singing and playing of the mbira dzavadzimu, a traditional instrument of the Shona people of Zimbabwe. She is one of the few female players of the instrument, which she learned to play from 1966 to 1969 when even fewer females played the instrument.
Chiweshe has performed numerous times in Germany and has also participated in the WOMAD festival (1994 in the United States, 1995 in Australia, and 2006 in Spain). In 2004 she toured England with her daughter.
In addition to performing as a soloist, Chiweshe often performs in combination with guitars. She has also organized an international women’s music festival in Zimbabwe.
In 1989, she starred in I Am the Future, a Godwin Mawuru film about a young woman who travels to the big city to escape Zimbabwe’s independence war in the rural areas.
- Ambuya? (Shanachie Records, 1987)
- Kumusha (1992)
- Kumusha Vol.1 (1995)
- Shungu (1997)
- Healing Tree: Best of Stella Chiweshe (1998)
- Kumusha Vol.2 ~ Stella Chiweshe (1999)
- Shungu Vol.4 (2000)
- Talking Mbira: Spirits of Liberation (2002)
- Double Check (2006)
- “Ndondopetera” (2007)
- Chakandiwana” – Stella Chiweshe & Michele Longo” (2014)
- The Rough Guide to the Music of Zimbabwe (World Music Network, 1996)
Stella Rambisai Chiweshe learned to play the mbira when it was forbidden for a woman to play the instrument and also the colonial regime had banned any cultural activities.
- 1966-1969 study years of mbira dzavadzimu
- 1970-1973 Played in forbidden spiritual ceremonies under the danger of imprisonment through the colonial government before independence 1974, first recordings of her compositions with Teal Record Company of which her first single Kasahwa went gold.
- 1975 – 1978 recorded more than 20 singles with the same company but were never promoted.
- 1979 she started her band the Earthquake after the record company had refused to record Mbira.
- 1981 – 1985 She became a member of the National Dance Company of Zimbabwe as Mbira soloist, actress and dancer. Performed in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Congo-Brazzaville, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia. India, Italy, Serbia, Danemark, Sweden, Finland, China, Korea. The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, France, USA, Croatia, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Canada, Slovenia, New Zealand, Poland and Austria.
She earned great success in a film where she played the role of Ambuya Nehanda – the national heroine of Zimbabwe, who was killed in 1896 by the colonial government.
- 1984 Solo tours in Germany, Great Britain, Italy, India, China, Korea, and concerts with her late brother Elfigio Chiweshe
- 1985 Tour throughout Europe with her daughter Virginia Mukwesha
- 1986 Introduction of marimba for Mbira music and toured Zimbabwe
- 1987 Recording and publication of “Ambuya?” with Piranha Records/Germany; triumphant concert at Hackney Empire/London and the Beat Apartheid Road Festival in Germany with two members of an English band the 3 Mustaphas 3.
- 1988 European tour with the Earthquake Band with shows in East Berlin for the “Festival des Politischen Liedes”, West Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg.
- 1989 Publishing of “Ndizvozvo” TV feature “Rambisai – Music of the Ancestors”. She is the founder of the “Mother Earth women’s group in Zimbabwe and founder of Chivanhu Trust also in Zimbabwe.
Led her first workshop with 100 women in Cardiff/South Wales as a teacher, and a European tour with the Earthquake Band same year.
- 1990 Publishing of “Chisi” with Piranha records for Europe and Japan, first release of “Ambuya?” for the USA. Her concert at the Heimatklänge-Festival in Berlin/Germany becomes the main act of the Festival. Concerts in Great Britain, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Led a women’s workshop in Arhus/Denmark “Body in Soul”.
- 1991 First release of “Kumusha”; tour throughout Europe where she shared the stage with Mory Kante, Lucky Dube, Pepe Kalle, Empire Bakuba and John Peel Session.
- 1992-1993 Tour in Greece, Turkey and throughout Europe with the Earthquake band. Led a women’s workshop “Unter Wasser Fliegen” in Wuppertal/Germany as a teacher.
- 1994 Publishing of “Shungu”; concerts in Germany and Great Britain. Solo tour in Norway, Finland and Sweden. WOMAD Festival with Peter Gabriel in North America, where she played solo in front of more than 12,000 people.
- 1995 Tour in Europe with concerts in Slovenia, Switzerland, Austria, Great Britain, Italy, Poland, Hungary and Germany. Womad Festival in Australia with the “Trio”
- 1996 Tour in Europe with concerts in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Great Britain and Ireland with her mother on percussion and the five musicians of her “Mbira Ensemble”.
- 1997 Solo tour in Europe with concerts in Italy, Switzerland, Germany and the Czech Republic.
- 1998 “Global Divas” tour in the USA sharing the stage with Susana Baca (Peru) and Tish Hinojosa (New Mexico) through more than thirty concerts. European tour and a number of radio recordings in the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany with the Trio.
Recording of CD “Tapera” in Zimbabwe with Gramma Records. Collaboration project with “Bhatagumbo” – a group of senior ladies (55–80 years of age). Stella created, directed, choreographed and performed a theatre piece “Chiedza (light). Performed in Harare at the HIFA Festival with Bhatagumbo.
- 1999 Magdalena Aotearoa Festival in New Zealand with concerts and workshops in Wellington and Paekakariki, solo. Invited to the “Global Interchange Conference: Artists in Conversation”, in New York with support of the Ford Foundation.
Collaboration project with the Dimensions Dance Theatre, Oakland (USA). Tour in Europe with the Trio, concerts in Budapest, World Music Festival (Hungary), Kalaka Festival (Slovenia), tour in Italy with concerts in Genova, Casale Monferato, Torino, Bologna. Concerts in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland. With Bhatagumbo group participation in the “World Senior Theatre-Festival” in Köln/Germany. The piece she created was the main attraction of the festival. Tour with her band in Zimbabwe.
- 2000 Solo tour in Rome, Sicily/Italy and at the World Music Festival Lahore (Pakistan). Quartet concerts at Expo 2000 Hanover (Germany), Int. Frauenuniversität Hannover (Germany), in Greece. Performed at the HIFA Festival in Zimbabwe with the Earthquake Band.
- 2001 Performed at the FESPAM Festival in Congo/Brazzaville with the Earthquake Band. Tour in Germany and the Netherlands with the Quartet.
- 2002 Publishing of CD “Talking Mbira” CD by Piranha. Tour with the Trio in Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Belgium.
- 2003 Performed in North America, Canada, Australia. On the New Year’s Eve she was honoured with a 28 carat gold medal by Jenaguru Festival Company and in August the same year was honoured by the University of Zimbabwe with a Masters in Arts degree.
- 2004 Toured England with three musicians including Virginia Mukwesha her daughter.Performed in New York with Tiga from Haiti (Bonga Music) with his Voodoo drums, solo in California.
- 2005 Performed solo, in Serbia, England, Italy, Zanzibar. Recorded in Zimbabwe “Double-Check” for Piranha Records. Won the Zimbabwe Silver Jubilee Awards (ZIMA Awards) for being the Most Outstanding Contribution in the Music Industry and for being “The Best Female Mbira Player”
- 2006 February Solo concerts in: England, Italy, Germany,. WOMAD festival in Caceres/Spain. National Arts Merits Award (NAMA) for being the most outstanding female artist in the music industry and for being the ambassador of the Zimbabwean culture. Performed with the band (six musicians) in Italy, Austria Portugal festivals and WOMAD Festival in Reading/England. In November solo WOMAD festival in Las Palmas/Canary Islands in Spain and in Zagreb/Croatia.
- 2007 January, February and March shows & rehearsals with band in Zimbabwe. May recording in Ireland. July tour in Canada with the band. Solo shows in Germany and North America.
- 2008. March tour in Italy, Germany with the Trio as well as Solo tour in April in Italy.
- Stella Chiweshe, Live in Studio 4A from National Public Radio Weekend Edition program, Sunday, 19 October 2003