Tuesday, January 26, 7300

Bantu to Zimbabwe (c. AD 300) - Mbira

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in the southern part of the continent of Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia to the northwest, and Mozambique to the east.

The majority of the population speaks Shona, which is the native language of the Shona people; the other native language of Zimbabwe being Sindebele, which is spoken by the Matabele people.

The name Zimbabwe derives from "Dzimba dza mabwe" meaning "great stone house" in the Shona language. Its use as the country's name is a tribute to Great Zimbabwe, site of the capital of the Empire of Great Zimbabwe.

Iron Age Bantu-speaking peoples began migrating into the area around AD 300, eventually displacing earlier hunters. These newcomers included the ancestors of the Shona, who account for roughly four-fifths of the country's population today

Zimbabwe - Shona - Nhemamusasa (Thumb Piano)

In Zimbabwean music, the mbira is a musical instrument consisting of a wooden board to which staggered metal keys have been attached. It is often fitted into a deze that functions as a resonator. Mbira performances are often accompanied by hosho.

The hosho is a Zimbabwean musical instrument consisting of a maranka gourd with seeds, usually hota (Canna indica) inside it,[1] or net of beads around it and which often accompanies Shona music, especially mbira music. It is a type of rattle. A smaller version of the hosho is made of a wild orange called a damba, tied together with sticks and filled with hota seeds or pebbles.

Other related percussion instruments from Zimbabwe include the magavhu (leg rattle) and ngoma (drum).

Among the Shona there are three mbira types that are very popular. The Mbira is usually classified as part of the lamellophone family of musical instruments. In some places the instrument is also known as a sansa.

In Shona music, the mbira dzavadzimu ("voice of the ancestors," national instrument of Zimbabwe, has been played by the Shona people of Zimbabwe for thousands of years. The mbira dzavadzimu is frequently played at religious ceremonies and social gatherings called mabira (sing. "bira").

A typical mbira dzavadzimu consists of between 22 and 28 keys constructed from hot- or cold-forged metal affixed to a hardwood soundboard (gwariva) in three different registers—two on the left, one on the right.

While playing, the little finger of the right hand is placed through a hole in the bottom right corner of the soundboard, stabilizing the instrument and leaving thumb and index finger of the right hand open to to pluck keys in the right register from above and below. The left hand is cupped around the left side of the instrument, with all fingers but the thumb placed behind the instrument. Both registers on the left side of the instrument are played with the left thumb.
Bottle caps, shells or other objects ("machachara") are often affixed to the soundboard to create a buzzing sound when the instrument is played. In a traditional setting, this sound is considered extremely important, as is believed to attract the ancestral spirits.
During a public performance, an mbira dzavadzimu is frequently placed in a deze (calabash resonator) to amplify its sound.

Tunings vary from family to family, referring to relative interval relationships and not to absolute pitches. The most common tuning is Nyamaropa, the western Mixolydian mode. Names may also vary between different families. For example, Garikai, whose family plays an "mbira orchestra" that has seven different tunings, each starting on a different interval of the same seven-note scale, calls his version of "Nyamaropa" the "Nhemamusasa" tuning. There are seven tunings that Garikai uses: Bangidza, Nyamaropa, Nhememusasa, Chakwi, Taireva, Mahoroho, and Mavembe (all of which are also names of traditional songs save for Mavembe).

Common names for tunings are:

Dambatsoko (Ionian mode) - Played by the Mujuru family. The name refers to their ancestral burial grounds.

Dongonda - usually a Nyamaropa tuned mbira with the right side notes the same octave as the left (an octave lower than usual).

Katsanzaira (Dorian mode) - The highest pitch of the traditional mbira tunings. The name means "the gentle rain before the storm hits".

Mavembe (also: Gandanga) (Phrygian mode) - Sekuru Gora claims to have invented this tuning at a funeral ceremony. The mourners were singing a familiar song with an unfamiliar melody and he went outside the hut and tuned his mbira to match the vocal lines. Other mbira players dispute that he invented it.

Nemakonde (Phrygian mode) - Same musical relationship as the mavembe, but the nemakonde tuning is a very low pitched version.

Saungweme (Whole tone)

[7321 Ethiopia / 7300 Zimbabwe / 7300 Kenya]