Ephat Mujuru

Journey of the Spirit

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The mbira, or thumb piano, is more than an instrument for the people of Zimbabwe. In the right hands, it becomes an instrument of the spirit and the heart. And the late Ephat Mujuru definitely had the right hands. On Journey of the Spirit, his music weaves hypnotic patterns that entrance while his voice intones over it, in his native Shona or in English, accompanied for the most part by simple percussion. It's a winning formula with deep beauty, the moments lifted only by a couple of tracks, like the more upbeat "Africa Meet Africa," with greater instrumentation, and "Mabwaedziwa," a piece whose elements -- guitar and mbira -- don't hang together well on the tune. Otherwise, the disc makes for a complete experience, played with love and devotion, a mix of traditional and original music that blends gorgeously. Mujuru moved to the U.S., but his heart remained strongly rooted at home. Whether playing ceremonial pieces like "Nyamaropa" or his own creations such as "Peace," the music remains heartfelt. He'll be sorely missed.

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