Fondly known as the girl with the African thumb piano (the mbira) Piwai wows audiences across the globe with her soulful voice and genre fusing melodies. Decorated by her many great achievements Piwai played percussion on 4 songs featured on Fantastic Negrito’s 2017 Grammy-winning album Last Days of Oakland.
Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Piwai’s love of music is influenced by her multicultural Southern Africa and gospel exposure in early childhood.
At age 10 she joined the church choir and by 13 she was writing and performing her own songs. At 19 Piwai left medical school in her native Zimbabwe to pursue a path as a biologist In the US. Although, the pull for music proved far too great during her studies.
“Music is the sum total of my very existence and every action I make manifests in music—the rhythm of my life.”
During and after college years Piwai trained as a jazz vocalist at the Jazz School of Berkeley, studying with world renowned vocalists and instructors such as Vernon Bush, Raz Kennedy, Maye Cavallaro and Frankye Kelly. Piwai went under the tutelage of maestros and renowned percussionist, Yagbe Onilu and conguero, Butch Haynes.
Piwai has masterfully created her own hypnotic sound that layers rabi (vocal based rhythms), jazz, blues, traditional folk and reggae on top of the traditional sacred sounds of the 3,000 year old mbira instrument. Her songs capture the delicate aspects of life and explore the wide realm of the human condition.
Piwai is a cultural ambassador for several non-profits in the Bay Area and San Diego, USA. In 2014 she was recognized by the Mayor of Long Beach for distinguished service towards cultural awareness, spreading peace and unity through the harmony of music.
She promotes music across generations and boundaries. Using music and a connection point, she’s taught music, singing, dance and drumming through the Center for World Music and The Young Musicians Academy in the greater San Diego Area.
“Piwai’s African Turquoise is passionate and vital music that embraces and expands upon the richness of Pan-African traditions. Do yourself a favor and experience it.”
– KAMAU KENYATTA, Grammy Award Winner, producer, musician & educator.
Her most recent release Cushion My Fall sung in English, Shona (from Zimbabwe) & Lingala (from Congo, Tanzania) is a mesmerising body of work which exudes her creative genius in an amazing way. In a brief interview with earGROUND, Piwai revealed that she will be dropping yet another gem titled Malevel on the 15th of June this year.