The clarinetist Oran Etkin is well-traveled. Sure, he’s based in New York City, but his concert schedule takes him literally all over the world. He plays concerts for adults, while also making music for families, both through his early music education program Timbalooloo as well as through concerts in the U.S. and abroad.
His forthcoming album Finding Friends Far From Home: A Journey with Clara Net is the fruit of many of these travels, featuring collaborations with musicians from Zimbabwe, China, the Czech Republic, and Turkey. Sure, the structure of the album, in which Etkin’s friend “Clara Net” (go ahead — I think you can guess what instrument plays that role) meets children in the various countries, is intended to serve as an introduction to young listeners. But such an overlay means very little if the music itself isn’t fun and well-played.
I guarantee that “Kutapira,” the track below, will get your day going right. It features Musekiwa Chingodza, a Zimbabwean Gwenyambira, or spiritual master of the mbira (thumb piano). Chingodza and Etkin (on the clarinet, of course) are joined by the girls choir of the Zimbabwe College of Music, Sam Mataure on drums, and Etkin’s bassist Marcos Varela.
What does “Kutapira” mean? Well, you can listen to this introductory track featuring Etkin and another mbira player, Irene Chingamba, who introduced Etkin to many of Zimbabwe’s mbira masters. But regardless of whether you listen to the intro track or not, I’m sure you'll agree that “Kutapira” is pretty sweet.
Finding Friends Far From Home: A Journey with Clara Net is out on August 30th, but is available on many digital streaming sites for “pre-order” today. (You can listen to “Kutapira” on Spotify right now.) Thanks to Etkin for letting me world-premiere the track!
Oran Etkin - “Kutapira” (feat. Musekiwa Chingodza) [Soundcloud]
Photo credit: John Abbott