TIMBILA [tim-BEE-lah] reinvents some of the most beautiful music traditions of southern Africa, with an East Village edge. The band started when Nora Balaban met Banning Eyre and Dirck Westervelt in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1997. Balaban, a veteran of CBGB’s punk and San Francisco’s “worldbeat” scene in the 1980s, was studying mbira (Shona thumb piano) and timbila (Chopi xylophone) with master musicians. Eyre, a writer and producer for public radio’s Afropop Worldwide, was playing guitar, and Westervelt banjo and bass, with Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited, Zimbabwe’s top traditional pop band. Louisa Bradshaw has been a vocalist with the band through its many incarnations over the past eight years. Bill Ruyle, percussionist extraordinaire, and a recent convert to the seductive world of Shona music, plays drums, tabla and percussion. And, TIMBILA has recently added an unusual element to the mix, Rima Fand on violin. Fand plays lines drawn from mbira and timbila parts, improvises like a fiend, and adds her voice to Balaban’s and Bradshaw’s rich vocal harmonies.
TIMBILA blazes ecstatic African rock with an East Village edge. The trance of African spirit possession merges with the trance of free-spirited head-bangers. The surreal buzzing beauty of timbila (Chopi xylophone, Mozambique) and hypnotic dream melodies of mbira (Shona thumb piano, Zimbabwe) soar with stinging guitar riffs and sassy celestial vocals in grooves that are deeply funky, fierce and danceable. No other band sounds like TIMBILA.