Primary Instrument: Bass, acoustic
A “staple of the New Mexico jazz scene” (Pasatiempo) Zimbabwe Nkenya has dedicated his life to music. A self-taught musical scholar, this St. Louis native started as a youth with the cello, but now primarily plays the upright bass, though he sometimes sets that aside to play the mbira, the African thumb piano. He has written and performed live musical scores for theatre, and collaborated with poets and vocalists. Nkenya produced/hosted KUNM’s “The House That Jazz Built”, and has performed in New Mexico for nearly 20 years.
He has been called “distinctive and innovative,” (Santa Fe New Mexican) and his music can be described as a fusion between improvisational jazz and African rhythms. Characteristically, Nkenya avoids the usual playbook of cover songs, and instead, uses the work of artists such as Thelonious Monk and Wayne Shorter as a springboard to dive head first into improvisation.
Zimbabwe Nkenya recently returned to the St. Louis area from the Southwest, where he became known as one of New Mexico's foremost creative musicians. His ensembles Black Jazz Culture, ZIYA, Contrabass Quartet and African Space Project were regularly featured in venues throughout the state including the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe and the Outpost Performance Space in Albuquerque.
In addition to his active playing career, Nkenya has also been an educator, playing concerts,workshops and residencies for school children. For some 20 years, he hosted one of New Mexico’s most respected radio shows, KUNM’s Sunday night special, The House that Jazz Built.
Zimbabwe has performed with some of the finest internationally known musicians on the creative music scene including Warren Smith, Ku-umba Frank Lacy, Julius Hemphill, Rob Brown, Ori Kaplin, Douglas Ewart, Abdul Wadud, William Parker, Fred Ho's Afro-Asian Music Ensemble, Anthony Braxton, Oliver Lake, Daniel Carter, Frank Morgan, Eddie Gale, J A Deane, Floyd LeFlore, Chris Jonas, Mary Redhouse, Bill Cole's Yoruba Proverbs, Jim Marshall and Maurice 'Malik' King. He has played with African singers, dancers & musicians Thuli Dumakude, Linda Tshabalala, Chipo Wakatanda, Duma Ndlovu, Lorraine Mahlangu, Abraham Adzenya, Welcome Msomi, Mohamed Kamara, Nhlanhla Brian Thusi and many others. Zimbabwe has also collaborated with poets Quincy Troupe, Eugene B. Redmond, Linda Piper, Mike'360' Ipiotes, Joy Harjo, Virginia Hampton, Michael Castro, Shirley LeFlore and Arthur Ray Brown.
Zimbabwe has performed at Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center, Knitting Factory, NYU, Hunter College, PS 122, and Riverside Church as well as The BRIDE in Philadelphia and One World Festival, Detroit. In New York he was featured in the two-year run of Izulu Dance Theater’s Off-Broadway musical production HALALA, at the Douglas Fairbanks Theater.
...Nkenya is already involved with the new Black Arts Group aka BAG II (see the previous post), and if his track record in New Mexico is any indication, could become a very active participant in the local music scene. StLJN looks forward to hearing what he has to offer - St. Louis Jazz Notes
Nkenya is a bass player who ranks with any of new jazz’s name artists. His fluid, far reaching runs on the acoustic bass are the stirring expressions of an artist who knows no limits. - Albuquerque Journal