Chartwell Dutiro is from the Shona tribe of Zimbabwe and is a master mbira player and professor. Mbira is a traditional, mystical instrument that’s purpose is to call on the ancestors, and it’s also the instrument you hear at the beginning and end of this show. In this episode you’ll learn about the history of the mbira and its influence on Zimbabwean culture, as well as how it’s used in a spiritual and ceremonial context.
Chartwell holds a master’s degree in ethnomusicology from SOAS University in London, and is currently working on his PHD in Collaboration with Dialogue using mbira as the backbone. He has a great deal of knowledge and wisdom about both traditional cultures and modern culture and how the two can either be woven together in a beneficial way or how they can clash in a way that breaks us as individuals and as a society as a whole. You’ll also hear Chartwell’s thoughts on everything from Apartheid to what happens in cultures that don’t communicate with the spirits of their ancestors.
This conversation was recorded two years ago, when A Show of Hearts was just a faint idea, so you’ll notice that the interviewing style and overall sound differ a bit from the other interviews on this show. But, his wise and insightful words are pretty timeless, and his perspective is unique and thoughtful. As you listen, you’ll get a sense of the respect and connection that he and Rosemary share, as he is her mentor and friend. Finally, you’ll hear one of his songs, Bukatiende, which means “get up let’s go” in Shona.
To learn more about Chartwell, visit chartwellusa.wordpress.com or follow him on Instagram @chartwelldutiro
Thanks for listening! If you loved what you heard, visit our website, ashowofhearts.com, subscribe on iTunes, and share with your friends @ashowofhearts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter using #ashowofhearts. Feel free to comment on our social media or send us an email at email@example.com.
Remember to choose courage, even when it’s scary, and join me in igniting the world with our hearts!
Rosemary Pritzker: You’re listening to A Show of Hearts, the podcast about finding the courage to live a deep and magical life. I’m your host, life coach, Rosemary Pritzker.
Rosemary Pritzker: (singing)
Rosemary Pritzker: Hi everyone. Welcome to the show. I’m so happy to introduce you to today’s guest, my dear friend and mentor, Chartwell Dutiro. He’s from the Shona tribe of Zimbabwe and is a master mbira player and professor. Mbira is a traditional mystical instrument that’s purpose is to call on the ancestors. It’s also the instrument you hear at the beginning and end of every episode of my show. So I’m thrilled for you guys to learn more about its meaning and history.
Rosemary Pritzker: Chartwell holds a master’s degree in ethnomusicology from SOAS University in London and is currently working on his PhD in collaboration with dialogue using mbira as the backbone. As you’ll hear in our interview, he has a great deal of knowledge and wisdom about both traditional cultures and modern culture and how the two can either be woven together in a beneficial way or how they can clash in a way that breaks us as individuals and as a society as a whole.
Rosemary Pritzker: This conversation was recorded two years ago when A Show of Hearts was just a faint idea. So you’ll notice that the interviewing style and overall sound differ a bit from my other interviews. But his wise and insightful words are pretty timeless. I hope you enjoy the unique and thoughtful perspective that he has to share. When we sat down, I asked Chartwell to talk about what the mbira is and the purpose that it serves in his culture.
Chartwell Dutiro: Mbira is a sacred, traditional instrument from Zimbabwe. It is made of three different components. It’s hand-forged metal pieces that are placed on very hard wood and at the bottom of the wood we have a metal plate that has anything that buzzes. Zimbabwe is landlocked and sometimes people use snail shells or sometimes ostrich egg shells, which I’ve used a lot. Now in this modern time, we put bottle tops. When we play mbira we use two thumbs and an index finger. So the thumbs are plucking down and the index finger is plucking up the high notes.
Chartwell Dutiro: Because mbira is so quiet, we then place it inside a gourd. You can imagine a gourd grows up like a pumpkin and we let it dry in the field. It changes color. It becomes a bit brown. Then we cut off the gourd. We cut off the top and scoop out all the seeds. Sometimes they’re hanged in a kitchen, hot, where it can smoke. It is this kind of shiny brown color. And then we put also bottle tops or shells around it for even more buzzing. But the resonance of the gourd gives the mbira a bit more volume.
Rosemary Pritzker: Can you talk a little bit about the purpose of the mbira?
Chartwell Dutiro: It has got a pivotal role and an mbira player is like a linchpin between the ancestors’ world and the living people. So we play mbira in these ritual ceremonies which are called Bira. Mbira is spelled M-B-I-R-A, mbira. We take off the M, B-I-R-A. That’s the name of the ceremony. Shona people for centuries have believed that we know there’s a creator there out who created people and things around the world. So to connect with the creator, we go through the ancestors. And to connect with ancestors, we have to have ceremonies and we have spirit mediums.
Chartwell Dutiro: In Shona culture, a spirit medium or a shaman is talked about as a pocket, like a pocket where you put things, or a vessel where the spirit of the ancestor come and temporarily inhabit for the night and talk through the medium. So the music summons the spirit of the ancestors to come and temporarily inhabit in a medium or a shaman.
Rosemary Pritzker: You’ve talked about how you started playing when you were four years old.
Chartwell Dutiro: I started playing when I was four years old and it wasn’t easy because at that time I was born in Rhodesia, which was a British colony basically. There was apartheid system. I grew up in what they called reserves, like reserves we know. The other word for it was TTL which means tribal trust lands, which means the missionaries, the British, decided that, “Let’s move these people out of the fertile land and put them into a gruffer land.” So-
Rosemary Pritzker: Sounds a lot like what happened here to the Native Americans being put onto reservations-
Chartwell Dutiro: Exactly.
Rosemary Pritzker: … in places that weren’t necessarily where their tribe actually had been.
Chartwell Dutiro: They were moved from the land, from the fertile land.
Rosemary Pritzker: Yeah.
Chartwell Dutiro: So growing up in that system where people are segregated because of the color of their skin and I grew up with Salvation Army. I like to call it Sully Army. It wasn’t easy for a young boy. I missed a lot of Sunday schools because I would have been playing mbira for the whole night for my ancestors. It was very uncomfortable. There’s a word, marumbe, in Shona, which means a vagabond, a young person not be a doctor or a teacher or something. Because of missing Sunday schools as a young boy, I was also in trouble with Salvation Army, Sully Army.
Chartwell Dutiro: But my mother was always there. She was also singing. She said, “You have to play music for your ancestors.” So playing mbira at the age of four was not easy. At some point I was even shy to carry my mbira, but my mother would carry the mbira.
Rosemary Pritzker: Did you guys have to hide the fact that you were playing mbira because of the apartheid system?
Chartwell Dutiro: Well, that happened before even when I was born. The mbira was banned and the spirit mediums were hanged in actual effect. The whole history of Zimbabwe is based on a woman called Nehanda. She was a powerful spirit medium who was resisting from colonialism, so she mobilized the whole country and told Shona people to go and get guns and fight for independence. But the missionaries didn’t like this, so she was hanged and executed. They cut off her head and took it to England. That was in 1897.
Chartwell Dutiro: So the music was then banned. The ceremonies were banned because they were looked at as worshiping the devil. So by the time I grew up things were a little bit relaxed, but still when the ceremonies are happening, you would be watching out in case some authority might come. But when you ban something it doesn’t mean it disappears. We have got an intellectual problem, an academic problem in that sense which is basically science versus cultures.
Rosemary Pritzker: Well, and head versus heart.
Chartwell Dutiro: Yes.
Rosemary Pritzker: And masculine versus feminine.
Chartwell Dutiro: Yes. Yes, I agree. I agree. Science believes that you want to talk about something, you’ve got to measure it. We don’t have a device really that can measure how many cycles per second is this spirit traveling before it enters the body. So the argument we can’t measure it, so it can’t be real. This is the problem we have because then if you are connected with the spiritual world like I do, I can’t talk about the ancestors coming as a spirit comfortably or I can’t talk about a dream that I have dreamed about that came true because people will think I’m weird. But in Shona culture, you could probably say the whole culture is weird in that way.
Chartwell Dutiro: That’s the impact of Roman Catholic, Church of England, Salvation Army, colonialism. What they’ve done is split families and, I don’t even know, maybe different generations. I think the only way to deal with it is education. When I talk of education, it’s a dangerous game because then you don’t want to go extreme education which is really academic and scientific, which is actually where the argument is. We talk about colonialism and we also forget about capitalism, which is actually it’s like a many-headed monster eating everybody around. It’s like one of those monsters that eats its own children.
Chartwell Dutiro: This is all in combination of Christianity because it becomes the value of if you are not with us, then we bomb you. This is the whole war we are having in the world. It’s actually not only Christianity, it’s religions. That is the biggest problem.
Rosemary Pritzker: Apartheid ended and Zimbabwe supposedly became free, but the culture there is still very much affected by colonialism, by Christianity, and a lot of people are still afraid of or against learning mbira, participating in the traditional ways of the Shona people because they still believe that it’s the devil.
Chartwell Dutiro: It’s all kind of been polluted because we talk about colonialism and this education. Zimbabwe is independent, 36 years independence. But the people who are ruling and the people who are academics were all educated in colonial structures and some of them were here. I live in England and there’s lots of Zimbabweans here and USA. I was sort of working with some of them in different universities. They don’t even talk about mbira and the ancestors. They talk about Jesus Christ.
Rosemary Pritzker: Which is like the soul of Zimbabwean history and culture.
Chartwell Dutiro: That is when capitalism comes in, isn’t it? Because everybody-
Rosemary Pritzker: More and more, and yeah.
Chartwell Dutiro: And everybody’s trying to be a useful asset to fit the system.
Rosemary Pritzker: What happens when an individual person who is a good person and has a good heart but is in a culture where there is no soul, how are they supposed to get through life?
Chartwell Dutiro: They don’t survive really because then the ancestors, who you’re supposed to recognize, are not happy.
Rosemary Pritzker: In cultures where they don’t communicate with the ancestors, they don’t have any practices in any way having to do with the ancestors, in Zimbabwe, in Shona culture, they believe that the ancestors are here. So what happens in cultures-
Chartwell Dutiro: Guiding.
Rosemary Pritzker: Yeah. So what happens in cultures where they’re not communicating with the ancestors? Are they causing problems? Or are they just kind of stuck? How does that work?
Chartwell Dutiro: They are causing problems. These problems have to do with health issues. Yesterday we talked about shamanic sicknesses. It happens. It happens in Shona culture. It happens here. People get so sick, so ill, to a point where the only way we can deal with this is not spiritual at all. We look for the drugs.
Rosemary Pritzker: When those people practice some form of spirituality in a way that’s helping people, a lot of times those illnesses either go away or get way better. That’s what I’m talking about when I say shaman sickness.
Chartwell Dutiro: Yeah. But you know when the ancestors come as well, we in Shona Culture, we don’t believe that all the ancestors are perfect because they were humans before. Imagine if my grandfather killed somebody in the street. It doesn’t mean he’s not my grandfather. When they die, then we have mbira ceremony and we call that spirit. We might not know that they killed somebody. The spirit of that person who he killed will come into our family causing mayhem.
Rosemary Pritzker: So what do you do when that happens, when there’s a spirit of either someone who was murdered or someone who did the murdering?
Chartwell Dutiro: Then you have a ceremony because mbira ceremony, then you call the spirit and you talk to the spirit and they tell you because this is about creating peace, making peace and reconciliation between the people from where the person was killed. It could be that my grandfather was killed by somebody as well and when he comes he said, “I wasn’t ready to die. Somebody killed me.” And that family who killed my grandfather will be having a nightmare as well. They go to shaman. They say, “Oh, you killed this man. You need to go to that family and have a reconciliation.”
Chartwell Dutiro: Then we come back to the church and what do they do? They say when someone is seeing things that not many people would see, then it’s schizophrenic. Then the church says, “Well, let’s cleanse that demon.”
Rosemary Pritzker: Well, unless it’s the Pope and God is talking to him.
Chartwell Dutiro: If the spirit of my ancestor comes in a church context where people are singing, then they say it’s the Holy Spirit. But it’s my ancestor who was called by the singing.
Rosemary Pritzker: What do you think of the idea of reincarnation?
Chartwell Dutiro: I believe ancestors come back. A year after somebody died, then we have a memorial service which is a Bira, where we play three days. We actually go to the grave and dance on top of the grave and invoke the spirit to bring it to the home. It’s like metamorphosis. It’s like we know that it’s now time for the spirit to come back and take care of the children and people around. So you see me with all these beads. They are not just beads. They represent different ancestors. White beads represent ancestors on my grandmother’s side. The black beads, ancestors on my grandfather’s side. The red beads, all different ancestors.
Chartwell Dutiro: They could be aunt. They could be uncle. They could be cousin. Because the moment somebody dies, they are in that world of the ancestors. So we have to call them back and come and give daily guidance. That daily guidance is about healing people. It’s the healing of the mind, consciousness, what you believe, what is it that makes you who you are. We have a lineage. I have to know seven generations of my ancestors. So if you can imagine seven generations, each ancestors had issues in life when they were living. So the purpose for the mbira and the purpose that an mbira player has is to connect people with their ancestors and their identity.
Chartwell Dutiro: When we lose identity, then we’re just wandering. We can try that and try this. But the ancestors are looking down on us saying, “What are you looking for? All I need is for you to recognize that I am here.” Even when we travel, the ancestors are always around. Sometimes when we lose the ancestors, then we’re talking about something that is almost like we have to follow this book. That is a basis of capitalism actually because then we are all interpreting it in different ways. What we forget in all that journey of interpreting this book is we forget the ancestors.
Rosemary Pritzker: Do you pray to the ancestors every day?
Chartwell Dutiro: I do.
Rosemary Pritzker: How do you do that?
Chartwell Dutiro: Well, in my house I have a shrine which has got snuff. You can see I’ve put a little-
Rosemary Pritzker: Oh yeah. He was introducing this to me yesterday. It’s an herb from Zimbabwe that’s a little bit like ginseng.
Chartwell Dutiro: Yeah. It’s all mixed with the different herbs. That is channeling me. Before we spoke, we said, “Okay, can we speak?” I had snuff and I said I’m going to tell the ancestors. They are always around me and there’s no doubt about that. In Zimbabwe, I say, “Makadini”, which is “How are you?” I’m not just saying, “How are you, Rose?” I’m saying, “How are you and all those around you?” We have to have a reverse psychology here if we’re going to succeed, otherwise we are doomed really. We have to think about our DNA, our ancestors, and what they’ve done.
Rosemary Pritzker: How do you deal with something like the Holocaust, with how many people died and in such brutal ways and all of the people who did the killing? What do you do about that?
Chartwell Dutiro: Well, I think we don’t have to forget these people who died and the people who did the killing. We probably are better off having a national cleansing, awareness.
Rosemary Pritzker: How much mbira playing and ritual do you think it would take to clean up all of those spirits from the Holocaust and from what happened in Rwanda and Vietnam and wherever else, the Native Americans?
Chartwell Dutiro: It’s not only mbira. There’s other music and different traditions. There’s other shaman people who are talking like the way we are talking now. We’re building bridges between cultures. If I was really angry about what colonialism did, I wouldn’t be living in England because that’s where the colonial masters came. If I was really angry, I wouldn’t be here because the slaves, we talk about the Holocaust. The biggest tragedy about America as it is today is the story of the slaves and the Native people.
Rosemary Pritzker: Which still very much affects American culture. People don’t really stop and think about that.
Chartwell Dutiro: Yeah. That’s where this monster of individualistic capitalism confuses us all because we don’t have time to think. If I was angry about the slaves that came and built America, they went into cotton fields and the subways and all these things, I wouldn’t be here. So I have to have a purpose. Bit by bit, we keep talking.
Rosemary Pritzker: There’s a Peruvian shaman that I know who talks about the antidote to a lot of this stuff, the antidote to a person’s own trauma, to a lot of the problems in the world is belonging.
Chartwell Dutiro: Yeah. Exactly. Where do I belong? I mean the beauty of the mbira, if I can give you an example, is actually it has touched people. Some of them have gone to Zimbabwe and gone to these ritual ceremonies and connect with their ancestor. Bit by bit, we have people like this. Nora and Chris Berry, the people who played mbira the night you first had it, they have been to Zimbabwe. Chris has been to my village. What is interesting is some of the people who never wanted to see the mbira, this is a colonial mentality when they see Chris or Nora playing that or you, if I take you, they say, “You’re playing the instrument of my ancestors. Can you teach me?”
Chartwell Dutiro: For me, that’s the beauty. We’re not converting people. We’re just saying, “Let’s be aware of what is around us, belonging. What is it that we are belonging to and how are we contributing to it?”
Rosemary Pritzker: And how can we create or find a place in this world where we can feel like we belong with people we feel connected with?
Chartwell Dutiro: And we can protect whatever we think we have. So that idea of socialism, socializing, I don’t know. That word has been contaminated as well because when people hear about socialism they think about Communists. But actually it’s those communities that we are lacking. And yet we’re all together in this big place, but we are not six degrees apart. We’re not connected. What is that? It’s because the system actually doesn’t allow us to do that. So it’s the structure that governs the people, where we have problem.
Rosemary Pritzker: What does it mean to you when you hear the term, follow your heart?
Chartwell Dutiro: You have to go inside yourself, isn’t it, and releasing. When I said there’s more than one person in each individual, that heart is questioning, “Am I at the right place? What am I doing? I don’t want to be doing that. But anyway, I have to do this because this gives me money. I don’t want to be here.” And then we have headaches. And you think, “Where is that headache coming from?” So we’re not following our heart really. It’s this thing of being afraid of something that we don’t know. What brings that in us is actually the system. We have so many negative voices that come to us. Don’t do that. Don’t do that.
Chartwell Dutiro: A lot of smokescreens in the system that allows people not to follow their hearts because every time you think, “I really would like to heal people,” and then you think, “I don’t have money. How do I do that?”
Rosemary Pritzker: When in reality there are a lot of people out there who need healing who would pay for it.
Chartwell Dutiro: Yeah.
Rosemary Pritzker: Yeah, but we’re taught in our culture to do something normal and respectable so that you can make lots of money because making lots of money is the goal. When actually-
Chartwell Dutiro: And to be happy. When I talk about building bridges, my wife, she’s English. If I was affected by colonialism and followed that concept of me being primitive because it came a time where everything black is bad. Everything white is good, which means that everything that you do is better than what I do, it doesn’t matter what it is. So if I was thinking like that, I wouldn’t have married an Englishwoman.
Rosemary Pritzker: How did you do that mentally?
Chartwell Dutiro: I mean it’s very hard to describe. But this thing of independence that comes in politics, Zimbabwe is independent in 1980. We can all move. As if there’s something very positive about that. That’s actually like the shackles have come off and have time to think, “Actually I can go to England.” And then I see a white woman who looks beautiful to me and I say, “Okay.” But it’s a two-way. She’s also attracted to me. Believe me, it’s not easy because the cultural clashes, conflicts come into these relationships. Sometimes it triggers in me the things that I think, “You think you are special more than me.”
Chartwell Dutiro: Believe me, there’s so many times that I’ve talked to my wife in that, “You think you’re the colonial master’s granddaughter, you can talk to me like that.” But nothing to do with that. She’s just expressing herself as a human being. So every step is about learning, learning about just human beings.
Rosemary Pritzker: We have to continually choose and choose again and choose again who we are, who we want to be, how we want to be in the world.
Chartwell Dutiro: Yeah. Because between the two of us, she’s very careful. She understands this man was segregated by my grandparent ancestors because of the color. So both ways we have to go above that. And then suddenly you have children, half Zimbabwe and half English. Those children could have been segregated in England and in Zimbabwe.
Rosemary Pritzker: Or they could be really important bridges between worlds.
Chartwell Dutiro: Exactly. So we have to mix the Black. Who are the ancestors of my children? This I tell them.
Rosemary Pritzker: In this culture in America, most of us don’t know a whole lot about our ancestors. I know some stuff about my mom’s father’s side of the family and a little bit about my dad’s side of the family, but that’s kind of it. I don’t know six or seven generations back the way you do.
Chartwell Dutiro: That’s interesting. Then you can see where our lives are breaking. This following our heart is going to be hard if we don’t know who we are.
Rosemary Pritzker: Yeah. You said something a minute ago about the shackles coming off. We’ve been talking about how do you figure out and decide what it is that you actually want to do, what doesn’t feel good, how do make those decisions. My mentor, who I’ve talked about, Martha Beck, one of the many tools that she has for figuring that out is to ask the person, “Does it feel shackles on or shackles off?”
Chartwell Dutiro: Follow your heart.
Rosemary Pritzker: Well, it’s not always easy. That’s actually when it’s most important.
Chartwell Dutiro: Yeah. How many of us can stick their heads out there? I’m not afraid to do that. I can be anywhere with my mbira. Today I just played in a church in a funeral. I felt I had a purpose to go and play in that funeral of someone I just knew two years ago. Those things happen and the next thing I’ll be playing on a stage. I don’t know. Last year in December I played at the Westminster Cathedral. I had never thought I could go into a church like that and play mbira. So my purpose is there. I believe music can help us build bridges between cultures and people.
Rosemary Pritzker: Music is a powerful and sometimes sneaky way of doing that because it’s just this thing that’s enjoyable. Who doesn’t like music?
Chartwell Dutiro: Yeah. Someone is smiling and you think, “Why is he smiling? I like that.” I mean a good example is what do you say about the first time you heard mbira?
Rosemary Pritzker: Yep. All I knew was this feels good. I want more.
Chartwell Dutiro: Didn’t you follow your heart?
Rosemary Pritzker: Yep.
Rosemary Pritzker: If you love what you’re hearing in this episode, subscribe, give a five-star rating, and write a review in iTunes. And then share it with someone you know will love it too.
Rosemary Pritzker: Last summer I found myself in a totally different kind of ceremony in the woods where I … and this was before I met Chartwell. I didn’t know anything about mbira. I’d heard it once but I didn’t know anything about its purpose. I was lying there in this ceremony. I was lying on the earth, looking up through the trees, and this powerful thing happened where I was like, I feel my ancestors here. I need to call them in somehow. So I started singing this Hebrew song because I’m Jewish. Randomly, the song I picked was, Hatikvah, which is the Israeli national anthem.
Rosemary Pritzker: I was singing and singing this and it just was such a powerful moment. A friend sitting next to me was like, “Rose, your ancestors are here.” She could feel them too. So a week later, I found myself in this meeting with a completely different group all the way across the country. They have this practice of whenever they’re having a meeting and they have one person volunteer to hold the heart for the group. There was this session. Keep in mind, this is a week after I had been spontaneously calling on my ancestors. I volunteered to hold the heart one session. I dropped really deep into my heart and suddenly found myself, I guess you could call it a vision. But found myself in this place that had really moist, red dirt and really lush, green plants. I had no idea where it was.
Rosemary Pritzker: I was like, “Is this South America? Is this Africa?” I have no idea. Two weeks after that, I threw a little summer party. Sean and Banning, the founders of Afropop, showed up and brought Chartwell with them. Chartwell and I sat down and just started talking and talking. We couldn’t stop talking. It was a really heartfelt, powerful conversation. That night, my friend, Kathleen, in Scotland, her daughter, Emily, has the same birthday as me and is a musician, which I knew she was a musician. But what I didn’t know until that moment and I’ve known these women for years, I didn’t know until that moment that she is Chartwell’s protegee. She’s 27 now. She has been his protegee since she was 13.
Rosemary Pritzker: She teaches mbira. So I immediately started studying mbira with Chartwell because I had already been struck by the sound. In my second ever mbira lesson with Chartwell, I was like, “Wait a minute. Chartwell, where you’re from, does it have moist, red dirt and lush green everywhere?” He said, “Yeah. That’s exactly what it looks like.”
Chartwell Dutiro: Following the heart is about that. There’s so many people who think like this, but they just don’t know how to shake off the shackles. Those shackles is that system. This is the monster. This is the monster that divides the people. I was just talking to you before about the powerful image I saw with my wife with two midwives and the doula. I’m looking at these powerful, three powerful women surrounding my wife giving birth to my child and I’m playing mbira. That image made me feel powerless. I didn’t even think I’m a man because I came through like that from a woman.
Chartwell Dutiro: You look at the system. What is it that this system being run by us men?
Rosemary Pritzker: It’s so funny because we all come into life through women.
Chartwell Dutiro: Yeah. I see this image that made me humble. Some people look at that as threatening because they see a different kind of power coming from a woman. Of course it’s powerful.
Rosemary Pritzker: Well, yeah. We’re taught in this culture, what is power? We’re taught that it’s violence and power over. But there are many versions of power. Feminine power, it might look gentle, but that doesn’t mean it’s not powerful.
Chartwell Dutiro: No. No.
Rosemary Pritzker: It’s hugely powerful.
Chartwell Dutiro: No.
Rosemary Pritzker: And it’s not always gentle.
Chartwell Dutiro: Well, exactly-
Rosemary Pritzker: Childbirth is not exactly gentle.
Chartwell Dutiro: No. There’s blood. There’s everything there. We talk about the cycle, the cycle of what happens with the body, the hormones, the change. We don’t hide that. The connection with the moon and the earth. That Sandy was mostly about the tide. Everything, the moon that swept half of New York was underwater because the moon wasn’t right. I mean hurricane, if you look at the time of moon, where the moon was and that whole and the connection of the women to that.
Rosemary Pritzker: When Sandy happened, I was here in New York. Lower Manhattan lost power for four days. There were a couple nights there where I found myself walking through the streets of New York in utter pitch black. It was so eerie, but it was also-
Chartwell Dutiro: The bling bling is not there.
Rosemary Pritzker: It’s like what is New York like without the bright lights and the buzz that are associated with it. Suddenly we were going back or maybe forward.
Chartwell Dutiro: You know human beings, if those lights didn’t come people would have found another way of dealing with it. That’s the power that we lose, the power of surviving with each other and thinking about who is next door, what are they doing. We meet here in the street. “How are you?” “I’m fine. I’m fine.” Everybody’s fine. Really?
Rosemary Pritzker: Yeah. It’s bullshit. It’s just what we say.
Chartwell Dutiro: Because if we say, “How are you-”
Rosemary Pritzker: Because we’re not real with each other most of the time.
Chartwell Dutiro: If we say, “How are you,” I’m supposed to say, “I’m not really very well.” And I tell you my problems and you listen. Or I had dreams and if you can interpret them, interpret. If you can’t, you say, “I know a dream interpreter. Let’s go.” That sort of love and care for each other as human beings, that’s the thing that makes us follow our hearts because we can feel the support of the people around us. Then it’s a community. But there’s something that with the system that make us think individually and it becomes a material way of living. I’ve got this, so nobody else should have it. It’s mine.
Rosemary Pritzker: There are times where in America we do come together, but it usually takes a crisis. For example, when 9/11 happened. Where I was in Montana at the time, everyone came together.
Chartwell Dutiro: There were rituals that happened there at the World Trade Center. The blood was spilled. Spilling of the blood can actually make something a ritual and then to build that thing up again, they had to do certain things and honor the people who died. They did that. They couldn’t build that building without that. So rituals are there, but there’s something about the small work that we do, both you and I, that we just have to keep doing and the people you know. This work is the way forward because, believe me, we’re just looking for pieces of puzzles that are already around us.
Rosemary Pritzker: I was sharing an idea with Chartwell yesterday about bringing together these various people that I know from different cultures who all carry some form of spiritual tradition. One of them is a Native American from Montana, western Montana, from what the white people called the Flathead Reservation. It’s actually the Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreille tribes. Another Tibetan Buddhist lama who currently lives in Santa Fe but is from Tibet was imprisoned by the Chinese and carries multiple ancient lineages and various other people-
Chartwell Dutiro: South America?
Rosemary Pritzker: Yeah, yeah. Various other people from different parts of the world who carry these ancient spiritual wisdom traditions that I want to bring together so that they can have a dialogue about what’s happening in the world and what can we do together, because I believe that it’s those cultures that in large part are holding the heart and the soul of the world.
Chartwell Dutiro: We have to have space and open space that allows dialogue. That’s what it is. When you facilitate something like that, there’s people who believe in mbira and what I do in Uruguay and in Montana and Martha and these people, we need to just find a thread that goes through because we’ve got different ways of describing the same thing. Those are the things that we need, the things that pulls cultures together.
Rosemary Pritzker: The song you’re about to hear is called Bukatiende, which means “Get up, let’s go.” This recording is from Chartwell’s album, Pasichigare. I asked him to explain a bit about this song, which is one of his favorites.
Chartwell Dutiro: In the lyrics, we’re saying, “Give me the feathers so that I can fly and follow the vultures.” Vultures are very sacred birds because they clean things. We were talking about that this afternoon. The vultures, people think they’re nasty. They eat carcass, but actually they clean. So in Shona culture, they are sacred. Why would someone follow the vulture? That’s a spirit right there.
Chartwell Dutiro: (singing)
Chartwell Dutiro: And then the other set of lyrics we’re saying, “May somebody tell me where the rest of the people have gone?” So now we’re thinking about the ancestors and then there’s lyrics that say, “I am standing here and standing there.” A bit like wondering where everybody had gone.
Chartwell Dutiro: (singing)
Chartwell Dutiro: It’s like a song that triggers a lot of things inside me, lyrics-wise. “May somebody give me the feathers so that I can fly and follow the vultures.” I mean it’s really powerful words. That’s what this music does. A particular song, you feel it inside you. You feel like, okay, this song, I feel different inside my body. Sometimes I feel like the blood is moving opposite way. It sounds like I’m dying, but it is that feeling of what the music does inside our body. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to cry and the tears come.
Chartwell Dutiro: (singing)
Chartwell Dutiro: I know that the emotional side of my feeling triggered by music, the ancestors are around. Sometimes I play Bukatiende and I go to bed. I can sleep. The song is still playing in my head and I sleep and I dream about it. I’m playing the same song. It’s taking me on a journey. It’s like a soundtrack of my life.
Rosemary Pritzker: Yeah. It’s funny you say that because I was just thinking you have played this song for so long.
Chartwell Dutiro: Sometimes I’m not playing but it’s inside.
Rosemary Pritzker: And you still love it so much.
Chartwell Dutiro: Yeah. Yeah. The thing I like about mbira it’s like it goes around, how we connect things. So it’s like a wheel and sometimes I feel like I need to stop because if I don’t stop maybe I won’t come back. Maybe I’ll just be an ancestor forever.
Chartwell Dutiro: (singing)
Rosemary Pritzker: Thank you for listening to A Show of Hearts. If you enjoyed what you heard, please subscribe on iTunes and share it with your favorite people. Visit our website, ashowofhearts.com where you can sign up for emails and explore all our episodes in depth. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @ashowofhearts. Remember to choose courage even when it’s scary. Join me in igniting the world with our hearts.
Rosemary Pritzker: (singing)