Mbira

THE MBIRA IN THE HISTORY OF ZIMBABWE

The population of Zimbabwe consists mainly of Shona groups: Zezuru, Korekore, Karanga, Ndau ... By their side, live Ndebele, of Zulu origin, and some other very small groups. 

The Mbira is the primary instrument of the traditional and ritual music of the Shona people, and has been played for over 1,000 years. Instrument of the family of lamellophones, it is used for different functions. Beyond her practice or listening for one purpose of pleasure and entertainment, the Mbira is played on special occasions, such as funerals.  It is also the instrument played during traditional ceremonies, called bira. Calming, caring and introspective virtues are associated with the sound of this instrument.

By the end of the 19th century, hundreds of thousands of European settlers settled in Zimbabwe (then called Southern Rhodesia) and upset the existing social, economic and religious system. 

Mbira music and the cultural and ritual practices surrounding it were considered diabolical by Christian missionaries. The instruments were confiscated, their practice forbidden, all ritual gathering was proscribed. The teaching of traditional music was removed from the institutions and replaced by Western instruments. 

Despite this strong pressure, the mbira has remained a central instrument in Shona ritual musical practices. From 1972 to 1979, a war of liberation shakes the country. Zimbabwe, then called as such, became definitively independent in 1980 and (The first declaration of independence dates from 1965).  


THE INSTRUMENT

Depending on their geographical origins, the models of lamellophones in Zimbabwe are varied. They are found under the names of mbira Dzavadzimu, njari, matepe, karimba ...

The simplest of appearances, known as karimba (or kalimba), consist of 8 to 15 lamellae.

The mbira Dzavadzimuomposed of 22 to 28 metal keys fixed on a wooden support of 22cm long and 18cm wide approximately, is played with the right index finger and the two thumbs, and is frequently placed inside a calabash (deze) to create a natural resonance effect.


THE PLAYING OF MBIRA 

Traditionally, the mbira can be played by two or more performers, each playing a specific complementary part.

The mbira is generally accompanied by hosho, a pair of maranka gourds containing seeds, used as rattles; and sometimes ngoma, tribal drums.

Beautiful singing, sometimes prayers, sometimes old words, are added to repetitive instrumental loops.

In the ritual setting, the musical performances always involve the participation of the audience: everyone contributes with songs, dances, ululations (mhururu) on the part of women. The dance is also central in the event.

ZIMBABWE

 

Zimbabwe, like Botswana, is a landlocked country at the base of the African continent. Its neighbours are Mozambique (to the east), South Africa and Botswana (to the south and west), and Zambia (to the north). Zimbabwe lies on a high plateau, and its terrain consists primarily of grasslands bordered on the east by mountains. The northeastern border of the country is marked by the mighty Zambezi River, along which is located the incomparable spectacle of Victoria Falls and the magnificent expanse of Lake Kariba. The Zambezi has become one of the world's best water adventure travel destinations, offering outstanding whitewater rafting in the Zambezi Gorges below the falls as well as excellent canoeing and kayaking above them.
History & People

There is evidence of settlements in Zimbabwe dating from as long ago as the second century AD, but these early inhabitants were supplanted around the 5th century by Bantu-speaking peoples. In southeastern Zimbabwe, in 1870, European explorers came upon an impressive ruined city, which they believed to be the biblical city of Ophir--the site of King Solomon's mines. The immediate result was a frantic, and utterly unsuccessful, search for gold deposits in the surrounding region.

Archaeologists have more recently determined that the site was occupied as early as the 3rd century AD, but that its ruins date from the12th to the 15th century. Known as Great Zimbabwe, it was during its heyday the capital of a Shona trading empire that collapsed for reasons that remain unknown. By the middle of the19th century, with European influence still slight, the region's Shona states had been defeated by an invading Ndebele army from the south. Ndebele power didn't last long, however. In 1890, the fortune-hunting Cecil Rhodes arrived at the head of a private army of settlers and commenced to conquer what he thought might be a rich gold-producing region. By 1897 the area had been completely subdued. In 1923 Rhodesia became a self-governing British colony, completely controlled by the white settlers. For much of the last half-century Zimbabwe's history has been that of the long struggle to end white rule. Finally, in 1979, a new constitution that provided for democratic majority rule was established. The country has in recent years moved increasingly toward a more liberal economy, and the era of violent internal strife appears to have concluded.