The 2022 Cedar Commissions – The Show

Last night’s performance at the the Cedar Cultural Center’s 2022 Cedar Commissions was an incredible time of celebration of many things: Home, our Ancestors, Pain, Loss, and the Connections we have with each other.  It was my joy to present Nkovu Wa Xivavu, “A Celebration of Pain” on the Cedar’s stage. With just three months to create this music, rehearse, and bring it all to light, this was an ambitious project that was supported all along the way by the generosity and talents of many artists, friends, volunteers, and of course the amazing employees of the Cedar Cultural Center.
I would like to thank God for the gift of life and my ancestors for the honor to be able to share our tradition with many different people. Third, I would like to thank all who collaborated with me on this work: Karin Valdizan, Jason Burak, Mikaela Marget, and Svetlana Davis brought energy and passion to this project. I want to thank my wife Erin Olson for her selfless support. A special thanks to the Cedar Cultural Center for this opportunity to express ourselves as artists and individuals.

The songs of the evening came out in a little different order than planned, as sometimes does when the ancestors speak. Kokandindasse came before Xlhokonono last night. Since I was not able to share the meaning behind Xlhokonono during the show, I want to be sure to share all the musical interpretation here. for you.

  1.  Sinyanguena (I’ve Arrived)
  2. Pfulani ti Dleve (Open Your Ears)
  3. Xlhokonono (Oppression)
  4. Kokandindasse (The Press-Wheel Roller)
  5. Ubuntu (Come Together)

You can download the translation to the night’s music here:  Nkovu Wa Xivavu_final

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You can also read an interview I gave about Friday’s performance of Nkovu Wa Xivavu here, which explains the story behind the music and my philosophy about music and life:
If you can make it out tonight, join me in watching the second evening of Commission artists: Vie Boheme, Alicia Thao, and Kat Parent.

The 2022 Cedar Commissions

I am so grateful and honored to be featured this year as one of the Cedar Cultural Center’s 2022 Cedar Commission artists.  This Friday, I will be performing Nkovu Wa Xivavu, which means “A Celebration of Pain” on the Cedar’s stage at around 8:30PM, between two other amazing artists who are also commissioned artists for the evening. This all-original, new work has never been performed before and I am so eager to share this music with the world.
From top to bottom: Kora, Inanga, and Xitende.
My collaborators on this project include:
  1. Mikaela Marget, Cello
  2. Jason Burak, Cello
  3. Svetlana Davis, Viola
  4. Karin Valdizan, Violin

Practicing during the Pandemic was a significant challenge. After I worked for several months composing the work, we gathered in pairs and practiced for a month one-on-one at my home before eventually coming together for our final two weeks of group rehearsals all together.

Rehearsal with Karin Valdizan.

The songs we will be performing include:

  1.  Sinyanguena (I’ve Arrived)
  2. Pfulani ti Dleve (Open Your Ears)
  3. Xlhokonono (Oppression)
  4. Kokandindasse (The Press-Wheel Roller)
  5. Ubuntu (Come Together)
The Cedar Cultural Center has published a news article today featuring an interview I gave about Friday’s performance of Nkovu Wa Xivavu. You can read it in full here:

YourClassical MPR Class Notes for the 2021-2022 Season

On September 16, 2021 the preview of our duo’s edition of Class Notes with MPR made its debut. I have been collaborating with the wonderful Mikaela Marget as a duo called Heliopsis over the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic, creating improvisational works featuring Timbila, Mbira, and Cello.

When choosing a duo name, Mikaela Marget and Nyttu Chongo wanted something that reflected joy and light. They settled on Heliopsis, the scientific name for Sunflower, which captures the forward moving energy of the ensemble.

Heliopsis plays original music for various traditional instruments from Sub-Saharan Africa, cello, and voice. Their music ranges from raucous and dance-like to serene and peaceful. Each tune has an element of improvisation, so no two performances are the same.

Heliopsis is a 2021-2022 MPR Class Notes participating ensemble.

I invite you to listen and watch our latest lesson here.

Thank you to all who supported the LIBANDZUWA CD release

The CD release celebration on 6/30/2021 was a special day for me–thank you to the 45 individuals who stopped by to listen to my album and celebrate life together.  It was such a joyful day, and I was honored to have each of you there.  A special thanks to the Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts in Fridley, Minnesota for hosting, and to Ifrah Mansour for hosting the Q/A and artist interview after the listening session. Thank you as well to Doug Ohlsen for providing sound equipment to hear the album, and of course to the Minnesota State Arts Board and the National Foundation for the Arts for making this work possible.
I would like to share a few photos from the evening.  Please take a look, and don’t forget to take another listen to LIBANDZUWA on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Prime, or anywhere else you get your music today.  You can purchase an album on my website shop for a total of $11 (including tax and the fees for card transactions) or directly from me at any of my shows for $10 in cash.
“Libandzuwa” means “the power of the sun” in a language from Mozambique. I hope you are all able to bask in the healing power of the sun this summer as our world begins to exit such a challenging chapter.
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About LIBANDZUWA, My Album Being Released Next Wednesday

This album is highly personal. It lifts up the joys and anguish of being an artist and musician in a world that values productivity. It is both a celebration of life and a cry for help, it is both a prayer for peace and a call for justice. I believe that I was called to use music to heal and bring people together. With this album, I hope to deliver the will of my ancestors and bring peace, joy, and healing to others.
The overarching theme of this body of work is a calling back home. The mbira is a spiritual instrument that is capable of calling lost souls back to their ancestral roots. I believe that I am not the creator of this music, instead it comes to me from the spiritual world. These are the sounds of the universe. Some of these songs come to me in dreams. The artists that collaborated on this album were selected song by song not only by my ancestors, but theirs as well. Their contributions carry meaning and show the power of the spirits that connect us to each other.
“Libandzuwa” means “the power of the sun” in a language from Mozambique.  It is also the name that I gave to my son, who was born just at the start of this musical journey. He is now approaching two years old, and seems to embody the joy, light, and energy of the very sun itself.  The title track on this album is a love song to my son. The lyrics of the first verse are translated:

Quando você nasceu, eu me renascí.                      When you were born, I was reborn.

Quando voce riu, eu chorei.                                      When you laughed, I cried.

Quando voce sorriu                                                     When you smiled,

Nivonile mashory.                                                         I saw miracles.

Quando voce chorou,                                                  When you cried,

Aprendi nova canção.                                                  I learned a new song.

I hope you can join us celebrating the release of this album on 6/30/2021 at the Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts in Fridley, MN.
Listen to a sample of the song “Libandzuwa” on my HearNow page, or see where you can download or stream it.

Nyttu Chongo – Xipendane, Vocals  //  Carlos Cartys – Pan Pipe Flute, Quenacho  //  Matt Grosso – Electronic Drum Kit

World Refugee Day 2021

Today was a beautiful celebration of resilience and culture at CAPI’s Twin Cities World Refugee Day, held virtually this year.  I was honored to be able to perform several pieces for the celebration, marking my fourth year participating in this special festival. This was the first recurring event that I was invited to perform at upon moving to Minnesota and I am always energized by the people that come together to celebrate on this day.
The first track on my forthcoming album, Libandzuwa, speaks about immigrants, refugees, and other travelers.  “Fly” speaks to the fact that we are all migratory creatures, who for various reasons travel to different places over our lifetimes. In these modern times, we may call these travelers “immigrants,” “refugees,” and “displaced people,” but what I believe to be true is that there is a calling for all travelers, whether their ancestors came against their will as slaves, or if they came by choice to conquer the land. Our roots call us to the lands of our ancestors so that our souls can rest in peace, fertilizing opportunity for future generations.
Listen to a sample of the song “Fly” on my HearNow page, or see where you can download or stream it.
(Nyttu Chongo – Mbira Dzava Dzimu, Vocals // Lucas Trigueiro – Kora // Fabian – Saxophone)

Minneapolis International Festival 2021

What a joy to be a part of the first virtual Minneapolis International Festival hosted by the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board.  This event is usually one held in person in the beautiful parks of our city, but due to COVID-19 we moved the platform to a virtual environment.  Nearly 300 people have streamed my performance from the second night of the festival, March 19th.  In all, the festival was made up of 18 days of music, arts, and culture form March 18-30th.  I hope you were able to tune into a couple of the acts. Some may be available for viewing on the Minneapolis Park Board website.  See you all next year!

Farewell to 2020

This has been…a remarkable year, to put it lightly.  I regret my silence here on my blog, because it has been an eventful year for me in many ways.  I have been busy recording my first album, Libandzuwa: The Power of the Sun, which has been delayed slightly but is set for release mid-year next year.  I have relocated from the East side of the metro to the West, have met many incredible musicians (virtually), and had the privilege of performing in several virtual performances for the City of Minneapolis, foundations, and international venues.  I feel blessed to have been able to continue to grow my artistic roots here in Minnesota in this challenging year, even though I have not been able to perform in person or join in the annual events I have historically participated in.
My final performance of 2020 will be this coming Tuesday, December 29th for Thrivent Financial and Minnesota Music Coalition.  I will be performing in the 5-6pm slot of their “Farewell to 2020 Party.” It is free and open to the public, so I hope you tune in.  There will be many artists performing in 10-15 minute slots, so it is bound to be a good time.
I wish you all health, peace, and hope in the new year. See you in 2021.
Link to Thrivent Tuesdays: Farewell to 2020 Party! 

5pm-6pm Performance

REFLECTIONS ON THE Residency in Urbana-Champaign

Through the support of the Center for World Music at the University of Illinois and the Spurlock Museum of World Cultures, I spent the end of January in Urbana-Champaign performing at the Global Roots Festival, the Spurlock Museum of World Cultures, and the University of Illinois. It was an amazing experience to share the music of Mozambique with a community so eager to learn and get out of their chairs to dance. I’ve shared a few pictures and videos from the events of the week below. I will add more in a couple of weeks.

Workshop given at the Spurlock Museum of World Cultures

Residency in Urbana-Champaign

Through the support of the Center for World Music at the University of Illinois and the Spurlock Museum of World Cultures, I will be performing a series of workshops and shows in Urbana-Champaign from January 29th through February 1st. I am pleased to be able to participate in this residency and share my music with the community of Illinois. You can find information about my series of performances on my calendar, or read more on the University of Illinois website.

See more about my performances for the public at this link: