Hub’s first music recital explores African musical storytelling in the digital age

3 March 2023

The first musical event in the College’s Cheng Kar Shun Digital Hub programme saw actor, composer and Zimbabwean Mbira musician John Falsetto fill our new performance space with the evocative sounds of his ancestors.

John’s practice is concerned with the devising of performances and training that integrates traditional Zimbabwean and Shona Mbira culture for the digital age and audience. He assimilates audience and performance; capturing the spaces and sounds of the event to create a sense of engagement and community with those involved, leading up to a final musical piece where everyone becomes a participant in the outcome.

The Cheng Kar Shun Digital Hub was filled with the sounds of traditional Zimbabwean music.


This innovative approach has been a key feature in his workshops with performers and young people, as well as his practical lectures at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) and Guildhall School of Music and Drama. It was also the premise for a remarkable evening performance in the Cheng Kar Shun Digital Hub, where John, and accompanist Tawanda, explored the convergence of Zimbabwean musical history and storytelling with the digital age.


John encouraged his audience to use their mobile devices to take photographs of, and record the performance, and to share these with their contacts as a way of digitising the storytelling traditions of Zimbabwe. He also used AI tool ChatGPT to create a new piece of music based on the sounds and rhythms of the Mbira.

About John Falsetto

John Pfumojena, professionally known as John Falsetto, is a Zimbabwean music composer, theatre director/practitioner and actor/musician. He is a Visiting Fellow of the University of Oxford’s Humanities Cultural Programme for 2022/23.

John (far left) with audience members, who were encouraged to join with clapping and chanting during the performance. Image: John Falsetto.


As a composer and music director, John has worked on the critically acclaimed play ‘The Jungle’ by Good Chance Theatre, and created a multi-disciplinary show called ‘BUNKER OF ZION’, which is completed scored by Zimbabwean Marimba and Mbira and is co-produced with The Collaborative Touring Network .

He is a recipient of the OBIE Special Citation Award (NYC) for his work on ‘The Jungle’ play, and Broadway World San Francisco Award for ‘Best Featured actor in a Play’ for the same production. Furthermore, the Zimbabwe Achievers’ Awards (UK) presented John with an Honorary ‘Cultural Ambassador’ Award. He has played the iconic role of Peter Pan in the National Theatre Productions’ ‘Peter Pan’. Furthermore, John has worked in productions at the Young Vic, the Old Vic, Shakespeare’s Globe, St Annes Warehouse (NYC), the Playhouse West End, and The Curran in San Francisco amongst others.