Charles Zawose

Idiosyncratic member of a great Tanzanian musical dynasty

The sudden death of the musician Charles Zawose from an Aids-related condition has effectively silenced one of Tanzania's great musical dynasties. Zawose achieved world-wide recognition as the delightfully idiosyncratic accompanist of choice to his uncle Dr Hukwe Zawose, who died last year. They were the leading musical ambassadors of inland Tanzania's Gogo tribe.

Charles Zawose, singer and musician: born Wakili, Tanzania 3 July 1970; five times married (one son, two daughters); died Stockholm 24 October 2004.

The sudden death of the musician Charles Zawose from an Aids-related condition has effectively silenced one of Tanzania's great musical dynasties. Zawose achieved world-wide recognition as the delightfully idiosyncratic accompanist of choice to his uncle Dr Hukwe Zawose, who died last year. They were the leading musical ambassadors of inland Tanzania's Gogo tribe.

Charles Zawose was initially headed for a simple life, farming the arid country surrounding the village of Wakili, near Dodoma in central Tanzania. Around the time of Charles's birth in 1970, Hukwe had moved to the coastal town of Bagamoyo, where he founded the celebrated College of Performing Arts, later touring internationally with his colleagues Dickson Mkwama and Lubeleje Chiute as the Master Musicians of Tanzania. After both died, Charles moved to Bagamoyo in the early 1990s and began a partnership with Hukwe, who chose him as his gifted protégé, above even his own sons.

Charles Zawose would usually accompany his uncle's extraordinary five-octave voice with his own beautiful vocal harmonies, as well as playing the ilimba (thumb piano) and the izeze (traditional fiddle). Dressed in extravagant costumes made from goatskins and porcupine quills, with ostrich feather head-dresses and nguga ankle bells, the pair were a regular fixture at Womad festivals in Britain in the late 1990s, charming crowds with their humorous and theatrical interplay. They reached an even bigger audience opening for Peter Gabriel, most recently on his "Growing Up" tours of 2002-03.

Charles made several recordings with Hukwe, most notably Chibite (1996) and Assembly (2001), for Real World, the latter album a daring collaboration with the Canadian producer and musician Michael Brook. In 2002, they released the Womad Select CD Mkuki Wa Roho (A Spear to the Soul), the first to feature one of Charles's compositions; "Tumieni Ujuzi" ("Use the talent God has given you") has been interpreted as a rebuff to members of the Zawose clan passed over in favour of Charles.

A more experimental solo album which Charles Zawose had begun recording remains uncompleted.

Jon Lusk



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