Classical Interludes: Beautiful Words Are Subversive: A Chamber Recital of “The Dawn of the Rooster”

Curated by Black Chalk & Co.

Tanyaradzwa A. Tawengwa - voice, mbira, keyboard, hosho

Gray Mitchell Jr. - piano

Makeda Hampton - voice

Gertrude Tawengwa - narrator

Tinashe Mushakavanhu, Nontsikelelo Mutiti - reading selected texts

Zimbabwean-born Tanyaradzwa A. Tawengwa performs “Dawn of the Rooster: A Choral Drama” as part of the Beautiful Words are Subversive exhibition at the Brooklyn Public Library. The musical tells the story of the composer’s family during the Second Chimurenga, the Zimbabwean struggle for liberation from 1965-1980. Belonging to a canon of politically subversive music called Chimurenga Music, it features monologues and movements from the work, rearranged for a chamber ensemble of voice, piano, mbira, keyboard, hosho and selected readings from Zimbabwean novels.

Chimurenga Music spread the message of liberation through song during the war. The music employed a series of linguistic, textual, and structural modifications to cultivate a sense of cultural pride. This structural DNA was linked to a deeper lineage of mbira repertoire that resonated with the core of the people. Much of this music was censored, if not banned, and singing the songs was a punishable offence.

The power of these songs lay in the ability of the melodies to summon the Mhondoro - the Great Ancestors of the people -  to awaken the spirit of liberation with a promise for freedom. Tawengwa and her collaborators will channel the spiritual and political heritage of revolutionary Chimurenga Music.


About the Performers

Tanyaradzwa A. Tawengwa is a Zimbabwean scholar, entrepreneur, composer and opera singer whose storytelling serves to bridge Zimbabwe’s past and present, in order to inform a self-crafted future. Her craft bridges the seemingly disparate worlds of Western classical music and Zimbabwean classical music -- utilizing her mastery of a plethora of instruments in order to create a trans-continental narrative that embodies the hybridity of neo-colonial Zimbabwe and its vast diaspora. 

Tinashe Mushakavanhu, PhD is a writer and scholar from Zimbabwe invested in how the poetics of anarchy inform creative writing, digital media and African literature. He is a postdoctoral fellow at WiSER, the University of Witwatersrand.

Nontsikelelo Mutiti is a Zimbabwean born interdisciplinary artist working at the intersections of disciplines to produce visual works that engages the African diaspora as a primary audience. She is Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Black Chalk & Co is a fugitive creative agency founded in 2015 engendering new forms of publishing and creative production.

Classical Interludes is made possible in part with support from Dr. Beverly S. Jacobs, Todd Ferguson and many generous individuals.

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