Hood River's Chigwaya rocks music festival

August 17, 2011

Mallets flying like hummingbird wings, Chigwaya Marimba wailed its way to a blistering success in front of a large cheering crowd of international music lovers.

Boy, nothing could feel sweeter for a teen band hoping to catch a break.

At long last snaring a coveted Friday night performance slot at Zimfest, the seven teen and one college-age performers plus their teacher from Hood River and White Salmon caused quite a stir during the annual Zimbabwean international music festival held this year in Corvallis Aug. 12.

"They're on fire! They're hot! They're burning down the house!" shouted at least three veteran Zimfest concertgoers drawn out of their chairs to dance during the group's 45-minute, high-energy premiere.

"We've been going to Zimfest for five years with a goal to get on the Friday night stage," said Madison Hanna, of the band's long preparation and audition process. "We finally made it. It was really, really great to have that experience."

Chigwaya's Hood River players include Hanna plus Ely Anchieta, Elizabeth Gobbo, Claudia Sneathen and Noah Tauscher, all HRVHS students. White Salmon-Underwood residents Sam Schwartz and Corey Rich fill out the choral marimba instruments.

Ian Baxter, also of Hood River, recently left for college and missed the gig but spent five years with the band. Keeley Harding, of Mt. Hood and former member of Zenendika Marimba, joined the band as Baxter's replacement just weeks before the performance.

Karin Tauscher, of the Musango Marimba Center in Hood River, has mentored the group since the first two members joined as elementary students and joined the group at their performance.

"They've been playing the afternoon stage at Zimfest for years working up to this. They rocked! They really earned that spot," said Tauscher. "I heard from people all weekend about how great their performance was."

Laying out both traditional Zimbabwean tunes and well-known contemporary pieces for the show, the band also performed their own composition, "Forest," which echoed off the walls with haunting intensity.

The piece, eliciting howls of approval from the audience, was dedicated to Forest Andrews, a local Hood River teen who lost his life June 10 in a skateboarding accident.

"We wrote this to remember our friend Forest," said Gobbo standing at the lead marimba. True to the cooperative nature of marimba music, while Gobbo composed the melody of the piece, all the band members contributed the harmonizing instrumental lines.

In an unusually affirming move, three professional Zimbabwean musicians from the festival joined the teens onstage, and brought additional bongo, hosho shakers and vocals to Chigwaya's already well-received performance.

The festival concert, held at the OSU DeSells Performing Arts Center, also provided an opportunity for the group to present their newly released CD. Featuring 13 songs weaving together marimba and vocals, the CD drew many buyers from the festival audience.

"I'm a music instructor and I can't wait to bring this back to my students to show them what other teens are capable of," said John Burke, Zimfest concert attendee.

Watch for upcoming Thursday Gorge Grown Market performances by Chigwaya. For those wishing to see a live-from-the-crowd video of Chigwaya performing at Zimfest, visit: www.hoodriverne

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