South Whidbey Record


Zimbabwean music, stories to take over WICA stage in Langley

March 14, 2013 · Updated 6:26 PM

Sarungano plays Friday at WICA. Members include Dana Moffett, Dyanne Harshman, Leslie Breeden and Donita Crosby. / Photo courtesy of WICA


WICA’s local artist series continues Friday, March 15 with the music of Sarungano, a four-piece vocal and mbira ensemble which performs traditional and contemporary songs from Zimbabwe.

Their show in the Langley theater begins at 7:30 p.m. and tickets cost $12. Contact the WICA box office at 360-221-8268.

Inspired and informed by a respected list of Zimbabwean musicians, Sarungano brings to the fore a rich tapestry of call and response that sings to the soul. Circular melodic lines from the mbira combined with the rich vocal harmonies in the Shona language create a sound-scape that is hauntingly beautiful.

Sarungano was born out of the Rubatano Center on Whidbey Island and inspired by the active Zimbabwean musical community in the Northwest and beyond. Sarungano keeps ongoing connections with its many teachers while it aims to share the stories of Zimbabwean culture through music and song. Sarungano is the Shona word for storyteller.

Sarungano members are Dana Moffett, Dyanne Harshman, Leslie Breeden, and Donita Crosby, who say they have learned the beautiful, complex music of Zimbabwe for a number of years.

Along with the complex African rhythms are the Shona words that tell of everyday life and traditions in Zimbabwe. They sing in the Shona language but also tell, in English, what the stories are about.

An added bonus that evening will be local storyteller Jill Johnson who will tell some Zimbabwean folk tales during the show. In addition, the Whidbey Island Waldorf middle school choir will perform.

Johnson did considerable work in Africa. For three years, she lived in Cameroon in Central West Africa where she was a trainer with Save the Children, CARE Cameroon, the United Nations Development Program, and the Peace Corps. She worked again for the Peace Corps in Morocco and the Central African Republic training new Peace Corps volunteers.

Ten years later, she returned to Cameroon as a storyteller, performing, doing teacher workshops and seminars, and appearing on national television. Her last assignment was as part of a delegation from the National Storytelling Network in a People to People exchange program in South Africa where she performed and gave a workshop.

“These songs bring back so many memories,” said Johnson. “ I see faces … smiling and beaded with sweat, bodies dancing, hear children laughing … it brings it all back.”


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