This is the story of our most recent album, Crossing Borders, Breaking Boundaries. Immediately after the release of our 2011 CD, we lost 5 members to a variety of reasons; Praise and I found ourselves struggling to start again from scratch. It was during this difficult time I reached out. I reached out to Mukanya, Thomas Mapfumo, who lives a couple days drive away from me; I asked him “can I come and hang out with you guys a little?”. He was kind and hospitable and fortunately, since I also had an opportunity to be in that area (Oregon/Washington), backing Fafi aka 3Percent, I had a good excuse to go on an adventure (accompanied by Jeff Simpson, our new marimba player). While there, we were privileged with the opportunity to jam with Mukanya and guitarist Gilbert Zvamaida a couple times. I returned to my home in Tucson, inspired and more intrigued than ever. I started recording some of the ideas gleaned from the trip and, at the same time, I began reaching out to other friends; old friends like Albert Nyathi, the Bulawayo Kwela Kings and Iwisa along with new friends like Tafadzwa Matamba (mbira) who I found on YouTube, Ian Mhlanga (multi-instrumental composer) who I met on Facebook and even the renowned guitar wizard, Mono Mukundu.
Over the next couple of years, we all exchanged ideas and tracks via the internet and this album began to take shape. Many songs began with the grooves I had composed and recorded with Praise and I both writing lyrics. Old friends like Albert Nyathi and the Bulawayo Kwela along with new friends like Mono Mukundu and Patience Mudeka were invited to participate with lyrics, vocals, penny whistles and guitars. Other songs started with tracks sent to me by new friends; Tafadzwa Matamba recorded mbira and vocals for his song, “Dai Hudiki Hwaidzokerwa” on a cell phone, Ian Mhlanga sent a mix of one of his songs, “IAACA” and Iwisa Music and Dance Company sent a vocal mix of their song “Ukuthula”. My ever-evolving band, The Key Ingredients of African Soul provided the backing for most of the songs although I recorded on multiple instruments for many songs when necessity dictated. This creative and organic process resulted in a crazy mixed up collection of styles and combinations of people, but the sound of the Key Ingredients of African Soul glues it all together. Some grooves eventually became more than one song and some songs had so many people contributing that I had to create different versions and mixes. Some people have discouraged me from trying to release and market such a crazy project which not only mixes genres but also features Shona, Ndebele, English and even some Spanish, all under one title. I decided to just go with it, called the album Crossing Borders, Breaking Boundaries and moved forward with the intent of sharing this music with those who inspired me to bring it into fruition, the people of Zimbabwe. Ultimately, it is a testament to how much we all have in common. Thank you for your kind attention and support…Mike Olson, or as my friends call me, Doc Twang