Immigrant Songs: Chimurenga Renaissance

photo by Dave Lichterman (view set)

Seattle duo Chimurenga Renaissance is generating heat in both International Music and Hip-Hop. They are musical royalty and prodigal sons who have managed to cross-pollinate the traditional and the modern, bridging two continents, two cultures, two generations and two genres.

The band came about through collaborations between Tendai Maraire from Shabazz Palaces and Hussein Kalonji, who played with many great Congolese bands. Tendai is the son of Abraham Dumisani Maraire, a master performer of the traditional Shona/Zimbabwean instruments, the mbira and marimba. Hussein is the son of the famous Congolese guitarist Raymond “Braynck” Kalonji. For some immigrant musicians, becoming a performer only manifests when you move to a new country, but for Tendai and Hussein, it was always in the cards. Both became immersed in hip-hop in both style and substance. For them, the music of their father’s wasn’t as much of a draw as something to push against. But later, their interest in African music became stronger when both of their fathers passed and the sons felt they needed a deeper connection to who they were, not just American Hip Hop performers but African musicians.

Chimurenga Renaissance is a synthesis of both of these cultural manifestations and also a unique expression of what it means to be an African living in the US, adding a particular offering to the dominant musical and cultural scene through their experiences here and in their fathers’ countries. With the power and flexibility of the internet and mobile technology, Hussein and Tendai can see and hear what is happening in Africa, contribute to both cultures, and alchemically transmute that music onto a new vibrant sound that speaks to musicians worldwide.

This is their Immigrant song:



About Immigrant Songs:
Immigrant Songs is a series presented and produced by KEXP, with support from The Vilcek Foundation. Through in-studio performances, interviews with local and national artists, and other written content, co-curators and DJs Darek Mazzone and Chilly will explore the immigrant experience. Read more stories here.

About The Vilcek Foundation:
The Vilcek Foundation was established in 2000 by Jan and Marica Vilcek, immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia. The mission of the foundation, to honor the contributions of foreign-born scholars and artists living in the United States, was inspired by the couple’s careers in biomedical science and art history, respectively, as well as their personal experiences and appreciation for the opportunities they received as newcomers to this country. The foundation awards annual prizes to immigrant biomedical scientists and artists and sponsors cultural programs such as the Hawaii International Film Festival. To learn more, visit Vilcek.org.

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