Timbila
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Timbila

New York City, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2005 | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2005
Band World Afropop

Calendar

This band hasn't logged any future gigs

Mar
25
Timbila @ Jalopy Theatre and School of Music

Brooklyn, NY

Brooklyn, NY

Mar
14
Timbila @ Threes Brewing

Gowanus, NY

Gowanus, NY

May
11
Timbila @ Barbès

New York, NY

New York, NY

Music

Press


"Timbila put together the beat of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and New York City and came up with a hard driving foot-stomping groove that commands immediate attention. An original sound that demands to be heard"
- Maure Aronson


" The minimum daily adult requirement for groove & good boogie have not yet been established. But if & when they are, TIMBILA, would be the single serving that satisfied the requirement, and then some. TIMBILA should be the house band at the United Nations. Dance first, solutions to follow .." - Mark Stewart


In Harlem, Reverberations from Afar

Returned from a festival circuit in Morocco, the band Timbila played well-worn originals and spirited new ones.

The group known as Timbila is not as foreign or unusual in theory as it proves to be in sound. Mixing and matching traditional, even ethnic instruments, as Timbila does, within a Western rock band fabric has spawned many creative sounds in indie circles of late: Joanna Newsom, Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, Beirut or even Tune-Yards have flung Balkan brass, ukuleles, accordions and harps into the ever-splintering sensibility of popular folk.

An Afropop amalgam, Timbila is of a different piece altogether. And its distinguishing features are the ones it gave voice during an evening at Farafina Café in Harlem last month. The band’s identity stems from the timbila, a Mozambican xylophone: It provides the centerpiece of the group’s arrangement onstage and is equally center to the vibrant spirit that pilots the music. Played by Nora Balaban, one of Timbila’s two singers, the so-named instrument rings heavily and with muddled intonation.

If it pitted the group with technical obstacles, they were imperceptible during the five-piece’s two sets at the small world music club. Agile and light in humor, the band’s songs rise and dip in animated tempos and frequently major keys. “The Trader” arrived early, its ebullient guitar frills a backdrop for Balaban and harmonizer Louisa Bradshaw’s vocals. Its lyrics poeticize a laundry list exchanges that, at times, reads heavy—“I sold / My breasts to wild men in Borneo”–though Balaban and Bradshaw’s cheeky delivery at Farafina made other lines like, “I sold my husband to a hand of gin,” appear more the emotional backbone.

The timbila was played in half of the band’s songs, which were usually the more invigorated takes. When not singing and playing, Balaban is a sight of absorbed physicality: swaying and walloping her wooden planks, as if to remain audible in the mix—though her instrument had its own microphone. She also played the mbira, a thumb-plucked piano on a wooden plank small enough to be handheld. In either case, Balaban’s instruments played the role a rhythm guitar might, chiming arpeggios or blocked chords with a vital mid-range. The group sang most of its songs in English, though some dipped into Shona and Chopi, languages tied to both southern African instruments and their respective traditions.

A troop of Americans, the core of Timbila meshed over ten years ago in Zimbabwe when Balaban, still studying her instruments, met guitarist Banning Eyre and the bassist Dirck Westervelt. Since then, the songs and lineup have undergone expansion and shifts. In its current form Timbila performs with accented crispness, highlighted by the band’s unexpected breaks and hits in forceful numbers like “Remembering the Future.”

But the sensation that permeated Timbila’s performance was one of sharing. It was a frequent scene: Balaban playing her mbira while sauntering over to guitarist Eyre during a jubilant solo. A player who appears to enjoy every note he plays—and hears—Eyre created interesting arcs, unfettered by the eighth-note consistency in rhythm that West African style commands. He interlaced syncopated stops and starts in satisfying doses, embodying them with zest. The enjoyment those brought to his band was transparent, and underlined the extent to which nonverbal communication and an interest in the statements of other players shaped the notes themselves.
- Hash Magazine


"Its totally savage cherie..." - Karine Plantadit


I am amazed that I only met Nora Balaban recently. I had known about her store "Tribal Soundz," the East Village haven for world music lovers and musicians for years (it is gone now, like the community that suppported it). Somehow our paths never crossed, and it was only when I saw her play in the group "Timbila" that it occurred to me that hers was a story worth telling. I started out by interviewing her, videotaping the band and as we spoke, she brought out photos, CDs, movies and even a 45! (The record, not the gun.) To try to put everything into one short piece was a bit beyond me, so I decided to split the info into two installments. The first segment concentrates on how she "found" the timbila, and the second will focus more on the mbira and her work with Timbila the band. - Link TV - World Music Blog


If you take a look at the images of the band on Timbila’s MySpace page, the punchy strapline: “Afrodelic Xylophone Rock” posted on their facebook wall makes perfect sense.
Timbila’s first album, Remembering The Future throws together the wicked buzz of timbila, mbira (thumb-piano from Zimbabwe) vibrant bass and percussion, soaring guitar and captivating new vocals with unabated energy.

Named after the Chopi xylophone of Mozambique, the band successfully combines Banning Eyre’s all-over-Africa guitar playing experience with Nora Balaban’s Timbila and Mbira mastery. Together with their stunning band they have created an unpretentious sound that would be equally at home in the context of southern Africa and the East Village, New York.

What really works is that their renditions of some of the most covered traditional songs in southern African music are fresh.

Take Nilevile (I’m Drunk). The first instrument you hear is Timbila, giving the impression that it’ll be a straight xylophone number, but the ‘atch, atch’ funk of the guitar joining swiftly in says otherwise and the raucous lyrics quickly blow the lid off.

The vocals are a large part of what makes this album. Balaban and Bradshaw’s harmonies are divine, although Ed Klinger’s haunting tenor voice, beautifully exposed in the soft and trance-like Shanje (Jealousy), doesn’t feature enough elsewhere in the album.
The numerous tracks written in English largely by Balaban, display a real understanding of how the Shona and Chopi cultures build their lyrics and put meaning into their songs. The Trader, for example, amuses and inspires thought through its repetition and metaphor and conveys such experience that enables a listener from anywhere in the world to relate to it.

Further music to the ears is how yet another rendition of Karigamombe, a cornerstone in the Shona repertoire, can achieve a new sense of place and time with the sweet and dream-like (almost watery) vocals that sound as if they’re being piped in through the speakers of a cruise liner in the 1940s. Accompanied by the dazzling crispness of the mbiras and Eyre’s electric guitar, it’s a winner.

With minimal sleeve notes there isn’t much to trace the trajectories of the musicians and how they came together to create such an enjoyable piece of work but that’s what the interweb’s for.

http://www.myspace.com/timbila

http://www.facebook.com/pages/TIMBILA/330714349099


- fROOTS


If you take a look at the images of the band on Timbila’s MySpace page, the punchy strapline: “Afrodelic Xylophone Rock” posted on their facebook wall makes perfect sense.
Timbila’s first album, Remembering The Future throws together the wicked buzz of timbila, mbira (thumb-piano from Zimbabwe) vibrant bass and percussion, soaring guitar and captivating new vocals with unabated energy.

Named after the Chopi xylophone of Mozambique, the band successfully combines Banning Eyre’s all-over-Africa guitar playing experience with Nora Balaban’s Timbila and Mbira mastery. Together with their stunning band they have created an unpretentious sound that would be equally at home in the context of southern Africa and the East Village, New York.

What really works is that their renditions of some of the most covered traditional songs in southern African music are fresh.

Take Nilevile (I’m Drunk). The first instrument you hear is Timbila, giving the impression that it’ll be a straight xylophone number, but the ‘atch, atch’ funk of the guitar joining swiftly in says otherwise and the raucous lyrics quickly blow the lid off.

The vocals are a large part of what makes this album. Balaban and Bradshaw’s harmonies are divine, although Ed Klinger’s haunting tenor voice, beautifully exposed in the soft and trance-like Shanje (Jealousy), doesn’t feature enough elsewhere in the album.
The numerous tracks written in English largely by Balaban, display a real understanding of how the Shona and Chopi cultures build their lyrics and put meaning into their songs. The Trader, for example, amuses and inspires thought through its repetition and metaphor and conveys such experience that enables a listener from anywhere in the world to relate to it.

Further music to the ears is how yet another rendition of Karigamombe, a cornerstone in the Shona repertoire, can achieve a new sense of place and time with the sweet and dream-like (almost watery) vocals that sound as if they’re being piped in through the speakers of a cruise liner in the 1940s. Accompanied by the dazzling crispness of the mbiras and Eyre’s electric guitar, it’s a winner.

With minimal sleeve notes there isn’t much to trace the trajectories of the musicians and how they came together to create such an enjoyable piece of work but that’s what the interweb’s for.

http://www.myspace.com/timbila

http://www.facebook.com/pages/TIMBILA/330714349099


- fROOTS


About a month ago, I videotaped the band "Timbila" at their CD release party. Something happens when one observes a band through a camera, and I found myself thinking, "There's a story here." Unlike so many of the younger bands in New York City these days (whose members come together as strangers) that bloom for a while and then morph into other musical manifestations, Timbila is a band that evolved over a period of almost fifteen years. The story has deep roots in the world music community of New York, and front person Nora Balaban and guitarist Banning Eyre are a large part of it. For those who remember the funkier, more artful days of the East Village, the name Tribal Soundz, the music and instrument store that Nora ran for many years, will bring back fond memories. A few weeks ago I profiled Nora, only because I knew that the narrative was too big for just one posting. Here's the second section, in which I interviewed Banning Eyre, senior editor of Afropop Worldwide, noted author, journalist and guitarist. I wanted Banning to explain the challenges of working with both the mbira and mbila (timbila is plural of mbila) and combining elements of the African music he so loves with Nora's passion for rock - Link TV World Music Blog


In the welcome spring air of April we’re drinking delicious homemade lemonade outside the gorgeously tranquil veranda to the back of Nora’s East Village apartment. A Marimba, a wooden xylophone from Zimbabwe, large enough for two people to play, sits inside as if it were a baby grand piano, surrounded by Mbiras (also from Zimbabwe) in all manner of tunings. At the foot of the Marimba rests an Mbila (pl. Timbila), the acoustically amplified wooden xylophone of the Chopi people of Mozambique. The apartment is spacious and airy but gives away a lifetime of vibrant musical involvement and Nora Balaban and Banning Eyre have kindly given me the time to discuss their band Timbila and the reaction to their first CD, Remembering The Future, (see fR.xxx for the review) which caused quite a stir among certain Shona circles when it was released earlier this year.

Banning explains: I had a very difficult experience when the CD came out and I gave it to Thomas because he really took great exception to it on many levels. Fundamentally, he objected to many things about the music starting with, on the one hand, ‘you’re corrupting it and changing it’ to, on the other hand, ‘you’re stealing from me’…you’re doing things wrong, people are pronouncing things wrong, the singing is terrible because it’s violating…it’s not correct Shona, it’s mixing things up, it’s…’ he took such profound offence to it as an assault on the tradition, he didn’t see it as building bridges (Chartwell Dutiro’s trademark approach to playing and teaching Mbira music) or being creative and it’s so funny because he’s always accusing people whose music sounds too much like his of not being original.”

Known as the Lion of Zimbabwe, Thomas Mapfumo is famous for bringing traditional Mbira songs to mainstream popularity in the 1970s by transcribing them to guitars and electric instruments in what was coined the Chimurenga style and used to great political effect during the Zimbabwean liberation war of 1966-79.
Banning fell in love with the celebrated Chimurenga songs thanks to a tape of early recordings that his former class mate Sean Barlow (founder of Afropop) sent him back in the early 1980s.
“I’d never heard of Mapfumo. I had no idea of it and hearing those Mbira melodies that were so familiar to me, from having listened to them so obsessively on those Nonesuch Explorer Records [during his studies in Ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University, Connecticut], and hearing that on guitar was just tremendously exciting to me and I became just…totally fanatical about the whole thing and ….I would go down to Washington to this African music record store and buy everything on import.”
When Afropop launched, Banning was part of the trip to Zimbabwe where he met Mapfumo and his band The Blacks Unlimited. Learning Mbira guitar from Thomas’s saxophonist and Mbira player Chartwell Dutiro, Banning became a strong player and returned as often as possible. He also began research for his book about Mapfumo that is currently being edited.

Banning is fair when he says “I think that some of the things that Thomas said were perfectly legitimate, I don’t know whether I necessarily agree with him but he has every right to feel that way…. I have so much experience of playing with him and playing with his musicians and we use bass lines and bits of guitar lines that come out of some of his songs, you know,” but it has marked a very clear line between everything that has gone before and the direction that the band want to take in the style and composition of their new songs. “I just want to completely get away from that in anything further that we record so that at least he won’t feel personally abused by it even if he hates it you know?”

“Now, I really do just approach the music as music, I understand its religious and its political significance and the way it represented this reclamation of identity and I really respect those things but I also realise that for me it’s kind of pretentious, to act like that stuff is really what is motivating me because it’s really not and … it’s ultimately all about the music.”

Nora comments with a wide grin “he did say something that I loved…”
Banning picks up the thread, “He said ‘You must stop that woman’. As you can see I’ve failed”. He laughs but when you consider the traditions that Nora has pulled together, Mbira, Timbila (for the most part typically male dominated instruments), poetry and rock music too, one can see why Thomas might feel threatened by the fact that the frontman of Timbila is actually a white, American woman who has always known her own mind when it comes to music.

Her richness of experience in playing African music (Marimba, Congas, Mbira, Timbila) is undeniable and she respects the traditions but tradition is not what she is aiming for with this band. “It’s not the culture that I grew up in so I don’t think I could ever have the same kind of connection with it that Chartwell or any of the other Zimbab - fROOTS


If you cant go to Mozambique or Zimbabwe, seeing this band is the next best thing!

Alex Foster (Sax, Saturday Night LIve Band) - ALEX FOSTER (SNL)


Yo ... This is TM Stevens ... Shocka Zooloo!
I have been a fan of african music for-evuary. African music is actually a part of all music and I dig the mix from different music & cultures. I had the pleasure and honor of playing with TIMBILA, another horizon crossed as I've always wanted to play traditional african music. TIMBILA is like a young plant growing into aa giant tree. So, look out for them ... here they come!

TM Stevens - TM Stevens


If you love African music, especially the music of Zimbabwe, you will love listening to this great band. They have created their own mixed sound of rock & roll with Southern African music. I fell in love with it !

Hassan Hakmoun - HASSAN HAKMOUN


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Bio

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.

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 masters. 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 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. The surreal buzzing beauty of timbila and hypnotic dream melodies of mbira soar with stinging guitar riffs and celestial vocals in grooves that are deeply funky, fierce and danceable. No other band sounds like TIMBILA.  

Band Members