American rap legend Nas pays tribute to Zimbabwe’s Mbira

By Bongani Ndlovu

As Google took time to celebrate Zimbabwe’s Mbira instrument yesterday through changing their Google Doodle and putting a Mbira game to educate people on the instrument, American rapper Nas was reminded of his debut hip hop album, Illmatic where he sampled the Mbira on his One Love song.

Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, better known by his stage name Nas, is an American rapper, songwriter, entrepreneur, and investor.
Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, better known by his stage name Nas, is an American rapper, songwriter, entrepreneur, and investor.

The song produced by Q-Tip, was released with the album on October 25, 1994. Illmatic was met with widespread acclaim from critics, many of whom hailed it as a masterpiece.

According to online sources, One Love samples the mbira (thumb piano), double bass and piano from the Heath Brothers’ “Smilin’ Billy Suite Part II” (1975) and contains a drum break from Parliament’s “Come in out the Rain” (1970), which add to the song’s mystical and hypnotic soundscape.

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Since Google was celebrating the country’s Culture Week with a Doodle game, teaching people the history and how to play the Mbira, Nas remembered that the song on his debut album sampled Mbira keys, information he shared with his 5.8 million followers on Instagram.

He said when the mbira played by Stanley Cowell, an American jazz pianist, was fused into the song, he knew it was complete.

“Today’s #GoogleDoodle celebrates the mbira, a traditional instrument of Zimbabwe’s Shona people. The mbira was sampled in Illmatic’s One Love, produced by Q-Tip.

“I remember back in ‘93, Q-Tip put down the One Love beat with samples of the smooth mbira licks of Stanley Cowell and a thick bassline from The Heath Brothers. In an instant, I knew that was it. He created a sound that represented the story I wanted to tell,” posted Nas.

The American rapper went on to encourage fans to learn more on the Mbira on Google.

“Check the Google homepage to be a part of this tribute to African music by playing the mbira yourself. During these challenging times, remember that Love is a superior force. Unity. Togetherness. One Love. #WorkingWithGoogle.”

Known as Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, Nas has released 12 studio albums, with seven of them certified platinum and multi-platinum in the US. The Chronicle

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