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Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center

1317 San Pablo Avenue

Berkeley, CA 94702

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Chinyakare uses its colorful performances for “creating community through music and dance.” The ensemble boasts a collection of diverse and experienced musicians from both Africa and the U.S. under the direction of Zimbabwean dancer and musician Julia Tsitsi Chigamba, who started the group when she moved to Oakland in 2001. True to its name, “deep traditional,” Chinyakare represents traditional music and dance from Shona, Ndebele, and other tribal groups from around Zimbabwe. Some of the main instruments the ensemble plays are mbira (thumb piano), hosho (shakers), ngoma (drums), marimbas, and chipendani (mouth bow). Chinyakare’s performances feature the complex weaving of all of these instruments into beautiful melodies and polyrhythms that are still performed regularly at spiritual ceremonies throughout Zimbabwe.

In addition to her Oakland classes and workshops, Chigamba has recently started a nonprofit organization, the Kumusha Foundation, to preserve and promote traditional Zimbabwean performing arts in the U.S. She also founded the Chinyakare Cultural Center in Harare, Zimbabwe, a recreated village that is used to teach, present, and preserve Zimbabwean traditional music, dance, and traditional arts, and also develop educational projects for adults and children. Chigamba is the 2016 recipient of the Bay Area Dance Week Dancer’s Choice Award.

Award-winning band Zulu Spear’sinspired and uplifting African and World Beat dance music returns to Ashkenaz for two full sets of music, beginning with the group performing mostly traditional South African songs and dances in costume, followed by original Zulu Spear songs and South Africa-world beat music rearranged by the band.
Zulu Spear was a pioneer and leader in the Bay Area’s World Beat scene of the ’80s, a movement that quickly spread across the country. The band of African and American musicians combined South African rhythms and songs with American rock and blues, using electric guitars and drums, resulting in South African pop music before Paul Simon’s 1986 “Graceland” album popularized the style. Additionally, members presented traditional South African dancing along with the music. The group was created by the late South African expatriate singer-composer-dancer Sechaba Mokeoena and Soweto-born singer Gideon Bendile. In the U.S. Mokeoena started U-Zulu Dance Theater and, after moving to the Bay Area, he and Bendile formed Zulu Spear to play traditional South African mbaqanga rhythms and harmonies using modern and electric instruments. The band quickly became a Bay Area audience favorite and issued a debut album on conglomerate Capitol Records. Bendile went on to work with such stars as Hugh Masekela, Paul Simon, and Peter Gabriel.
The band reunited a few years ago when Bendile, who was featured in the Walt Disney animated film “The Lion King,” issued a new CD, “Come Over to Our House,” that included tracks from the original band’s unreleased Capitol sessions as well as new music. Featuring most of the original band lineup along with a couple of “new” recruits, the current Zulu Spear is singer-dancers Bendile and Morgan Nhlapo, guitarists Ron van Leeuwaarde and Matthew Lacques, drummer Jerome Leonard, bassist Patrick Owens, keyboardist Jennifer Jolly, percussionist Pope Flyne, and the horns: trumpeter Scott “Sven” Vento and saxophonist/keyboardist Zack Pitt-Smith.

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Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center

1317 San Pablo Avenue

Berkeley, CA 94702

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