KEXP Q&A: Tendai Maraire of Chimurenga Renaissance

Local Music
Jake Uitti

The Zimbabwean, Tendai Maraire, who also plays in the well-known Shabazz Palaces, recently released a new album with Hussein Kalonji under the band name Chimurenga Renaissance. Their 2014 project is a boom-bap-centric, thoughtful album that experiments with sounds and genres. The record is a journey for the listener and creator, both. KEXP had a chance to chat with Tandai and ask him about the new project, how he prepares for recording and much more!

What were your expectations going into the recording of riZe vadZimu riZe? And what actually occurred?

We didn't go into the album with any expectations. We never really do that. We’re not the kind of the artists that do a song expecting.

What occurred? Well, I'll say this: as I was thinking about this question, I was at Bar Sue to see my dude who let me spit on his first vinyl years ago, named DJ Supreme. I got here and a kid name Eddie (hope I spelled it the way his parents did), came up and said he loved everything on the record. In fact Saturday my wife and I were at the club and a women grabs me. She says, “Hi, I have something to tell you. No, actually I have to show you.” She goes into her wallet and pulls out her ID. Her last name was CHIMURENGA. My wife and I were in shock. I asked the women if she or her family were from Zimbabwe. She said no. I whispered to my wife, "That's what this is all about, it's happening."How did you and Hussein Kalonji prepare for the new album?

We both grew up sons of musicians. So when you grow up around music like that you are always creating songs. You’re raised mentally prepared to create, write and perform music. You really have no other profession you think of.

When it comes to timing, we were prepared years ago when we started working together. But we all know it takes more then just the theistic. There is a business side. So as an artist you have to wait till someone understands and believes in the idea enough to invest their access to the machine to get it to the world. But we have always been ready.

Do you have a favorite moment from the album?

When we finished assembling the packaging.

What's your biggest inspiration in Seattle? What worries or concerns you most in the town? 

Nailing it down to one inspiration is really not possible. But to choose one off the top, I would say learning how much of an influence we as the "Black Constellation" are having on Africans and Blacks to embrace who we are and our culture. Especially the next generations of artists with new ideas.

My biggest concern is the state of Zimbabwean music in Seattle. I grew up playing Shona music and it's in my blood. It's my first love. And at this point I can't stand to watch what is happening to it. The last people that I watched perform marimbas literally made me shed tears to see how backwards things are that my family started. It's why I admire Hussein's country so much. You don't see people impersonating them. There is no Congolese festival ran by people not indigenous to the Congo. That saddens me the most. Let's me know colonialism exists here in Zimbabwean music. But I will repair it soon.

What does Zimbabwe and Shona music mean to you?

Shona music has been a part of my life since the day I was born. It's a part of me. I don't have a day in my existence that it hasn't been as valuable as air to me. I have lost family and music was there.

Last question, what’s coming up next for you? 

We are working on a project featuring some artists from Zimbabwe: Jacob Mafuleni and Tonderai Ndava of Mbira DzeMuninga.

See the band perform live at KEXP here:

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