Music of Zimbabwe

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Zimbabwean music includes folk and pop styles. Much of the folk music incorporates mbira, Ngoma drums and hosho. Music has played a significant role in the history of Zimbabwe, from a vital role in the traditional Bira ceremony used to call on ancestral spirits, to protest songs during the struggle for independence.[1]

Ngoma drums in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwean primary school students playing marimbas

Mbira[edit]

The mbira is an integral part of Zimbabwean music,[1][2] it is frequently played in a deze (calabash resonator) which amplifies the sound and augments it using shells or bottle caps placed around the edges. The mbira plays a central role in the traditional Bira ceremony used to call on ancestral spirits.[2]

Mbira player with other musicians from 1865 book
Mbira dzavadzimu
Hosho commonly used to accompany mbira music

Though musicologist Hugh Tracey believed the mbira to be nearing extinction in the 1930s, the instrument has been revived since the 60s and 70s, and has gained an international following through the world music scene. Some renowned mbira players include Dumisani Maraire, Ephat Mujuru, Stella Chiweshe, Chartwell Dutiro, Mbuya Dyoko, Cosmas Magaya, Tute Chigamba, Forward Kwenda, and Chiwoniso Maraire.[1][3] [4]

There is also pop music in Zimbabwe and around the world that incorporates Zimbabwean indigenous instruments, for example, mbira player Chris Berry with his band Panjea have reached platinum record sales in Zimbabwe and Mozambique, playing a style of music based on traditional mbira rhythms and melodies, but incorporating various other instruments and styles (like hip-hop and dancehall). Mbira is incorporated into the music of critically acclaimed American hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces by Tendai Maraire (son of traditional mbira player Dumisani Maraire).[5]

Sungura[edit]

This is the local genre of the Zimbabwe music industry. Sungura music became popular in the early 1980s, pioneered by frontman Ephraim Joe and his band Sungura Boys which counted many notable future hitmakers as members, their roll included John Chibadura (guitar) Simon Chimbetu (guitar and vocals) Naison Chimbetu, Ronnie Chataika, Michael Jambo (drums), Ephraim Joe (guitar), Moses Marasha (bass), Never Moyo (lead guitar), Bata Sinfirio (rhythm guitar), System Tazvida (guitar and vocals).

The Khiama Boys emerged as natural successors to the Sungura Boys after their demise during the mid-eighties. Members would include System Tazvida (Rhythm guitar), Nicholas Zacharia (Lead guitar), Alick Macheso (Bass), Silas Chakanyuka (Drums) and Zacharia Zakaria (Sub Rhythm guitar). A great number of these artistes have gone on to forge successful careers with their own bands whilst Nicholas Zacharia has remained as the leader of the band and is still active as of 2008.

Alick Macheso performing in 2012

James Chimombe, whose romantic ballads and the influential sungura guitar melody, (consisting of Lead, Rhythm and bass,) made him a favorite in the late 80s.

The 90s was dominated by musicians include Leonard Dembo, the effervescent Khiama Boys, veteran Simon Chimbetu and upcoming artistes Alick Macheso, Tongai Moyo and Somadhla Ndebele. The star of the decade was none other than Leonard Zhakata whose musical project was a spinoff of the double play Maungwe Brothers, an act fronted by Zhakata and his cousin Thomas Makion, the decade 2000 till presence has been characterised by a wrangle for the crown for the kingship of Sungura between the two great superstars of the decade, Alick Macheso and Tongai Moyo. Having dominated sales, tour and concert attendances, the heckling and counter heckling by the artists at shows and in some recorded material is strong proof that the current feud is far from end.

Other artists to come through this decade include Joseph Garakara, Gift Amuli and Daiton Somanje. And of late, Alick Macheso has risen to become one of the best singers in the music industry, with his popular dance zoraaa butter.

System Tazvida, Simon Chimbetu, John Chibadura,Leonard Dembo, and Thomas Makion have all died and left us with their sweet melodies.

Afro Jazz ( Zimbabwean Jazz)[edit]

Afro Jazz is a term used for Zimbabwean music influenced by a style of township rhythm that evolved in a Southern part of Africa over the last century. One can also trace similarities from Kwela, a pennywhistle-based, street music from the southern part of Africa with jazzy underpinnings and a distinctive, skiffle-like beat.It is also closely related to Marabi which was the name given to a keyboard style (often using cheap pedal organs) that had a musical link to American jazz, ragtime and blues, with roots deep in the African tradition. Early marabi musicians were part of an underground musical culture and were typically not recorded. An example of such an artist in the early 1940s is August Musarurwa of the Skokiaan fame, it has continued to develop and you can even see traits of this music in his grandson Prince Kudakwashe Musarurwa.

Chimurenga music[edit]

Chimurenga music is a genre developed by Thomas Mapfumo named for the Shona language word for struggle.[1] Mapfumo and his band, the Blacks Unlimited developed a style of music based on traditional mbira music, but played with modern electric instrumentation, with lyrics characterized by social and political commentary. Mapfumo's music was a "tool of the liberation war" criticizing the Rhodesian government of Ian Smith, but shifted after independence to speaking out about perceived corruption and mismanagement of the Zimbabwean government of Robert Mugabe.[1][6]

Tuku Music[edit]

Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi is a prolific recorder who has also appeared in films like Jit. He plays in a plethora of styles, and is known for penetrating lyrics; for example, he wrote a second song about AIDS in Zimbabwe after Paul Matavire's hit song Yakauya AIDS iriko.

Mokoomba at the music festival "Bardentreffen" 2013 in Nuremberg, Germany
Mokoomba at the music festival "Bardentreffen" 2013 in Nuremberg, Germany

Jit[edit]

Jit is a generic term for electric guitar-driven pop, and includes popular groups like the New Black Eagles and the Four Brothers. Internationally, The Bhundu Boys are by far the best-known jit performers, and have worked with numerous American and British musicians. Notable recent bands to come up with the Jit sound are Nehoreka who fuse the traditional Jit with funk sounds, there is also Mokoomba and Q Montana, the 1990 film Jit was named for this style.

Rumba[edit]

African Rumba, or 'Soukos' is mostly associated with the Democratic Republic of the Congo but its popularity has inspired Zimbabwe's own brand of rumba in musicians such as Simon Chimbetu and Leonard Karikoga Zhakata. Soukos has been an influence on other artists such as The R.U.N.N. family.

Gospel[edit]

Gospel music became popular in Zimbabwe in the late 1980s. Jonathan Wutawunashe has been described as "Zimbabwe's first real gospel star".[1] Other population musicians in this genre include Jordan Chataika, Freedom Sengwayo, Mechanic Manyeruke, and Brian Sibalo.

The early nineties saw the rising of new gospel stars in the mold of Ivy Kombo - Moyo and Carol Mujokoro of the EGEA gospel Train whose debut album Mufudzi Wangu was released in 1993 and contains tracks such as "Be Thou My Vision", "Ndotarisa Kumakomo" and "Utiziro" among others. The two went on to pursue successful solo musical careers and released "Ndaidziwanepi Nyasha" and "Ropa RaJesu" as their debut solo albums respectively.

Gospel artists who emerged from the mid nineties include Lawrence Haisa, Brother Sam with his hits "Makanaka Jesu" and "Cherechedza", Elias Musakwa, Rita Shonhiwa, The Gospel Trumpet of the "Rose Of Sharon" fame and Shingisai Suluma who only became popular in the early 21st century with the hit song "Mirira Mangwanani"; though she first recorded in the nineties.

In the late-nineties, Charles Charamba, a rising artist, grew in popularity, and currently holds gospel sales records, his music became popular into the first decade of the 21st century, most likely due to his Sungura-based contemporary style.

In the early 21st century, a lot of gospel artists also recorded, though a few really rose to stardom, these include Fungisai Zvakavapano - Mashavave who has risen to become the most dominant female gospel musician in the current era, Stanley Gwanzura (Pastor Gee), Kudzai Nyakudya and gospel a cappella outfits like Vabati VaJehovah and Shower Power.

Bulawayo[edit]

The Ndebele-dominated region of the southwest of Zimbabwe, including the city Bulawayo, has been instrumental in the development of Zimbabwean music. Seminal 1950s guitarist George Sibanda had a following across Africa, and Dorothy Masuka was a major player on the South African jazz scene, for example, among the most popular performers of the region within Zimbabwe, however, was 1980s Ndebele pop sensation Lovemore Majaivana. Ndebele musicians who are active are Black Umfolosi, Insingizi Majahawodwa Ndlovu, Sandra Ndebele, Lwazi Tshabangu, Kuxxman,Go Boyz, Achuzi, Beate Mangethe, Vusa Mkhaya, Afrika Revenge and Ramadu. The marginalisation of Bulawayo artists in Zimbabwe saw the influence of South African music dominating hence the emergence of kwaito music in Bulawayo pioneered by Go-Boyz in 1996 and more groups like GTI, Achuzi, Amagangsters, etc., emerged. A brand of Jazz was created in Bulawayo, in the 1940s and 1950s, and was made popular by August Musarurwa with his African Dance Band of the Cold Storage Commission of Southern Rhodesia, he recorded the legendary song Sikokiana which went on to be recorded in USA by Louis Armstrong and many others.

Lyrics[edit]

Zimbabwean musicians' lyrics mostly contain encouragement of upholding good social values in the family and society as whole, such lyrics can be seen in songs by artists like Oliver Mtukudzi, Simon Chimbetu, Nehoreka Louis Mhlanga, John Chibadura, Steve Makoni, Bhundu Boys and many others. Of note however is Thomas Mapfumo, whose lyrics are mainly political and encourage good leadership and rising against bad governance - Most of his albums are named after a word meaning Uprising or War of Liberation, "Chimurenga". His music has earned him the wrath of the ZANU-PF government resulting in the banning of most of his music on state owned radio and TV. Another outstanding musician with striking lyrics is the late System Tazvida of the Chazezesa Challengers, his lyrics were mainly centered on the subject of "Love" and this gained him popularity with songs like "Anodyiwa Haataure", "Ukarambwa Usachema", "Vanotipedzera Mashoko" and "Dai Hanzvadzi Yairoorwa". With the coming of "Urban Grooves" the lyrics content resembles that of American RnB, Hip Hop and Pop music which the younger generations listen to. One artist Maskiri is known for imitating Eminem's style of controversial lyrics.

Urban Grooves[edit]

Coming on the music scene in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Urban Grooves takes in American Rap, Hip Hop, R&B, Soul and other international music genres, often melded with traditional Zimbabwean music.

Artists such as Sanii Makhalima, Roy and Royce, David Chifunyise, Leonard Mapfumo, Roki, Stach, Betty Makaya, Extra Large, Maskiri, Kactus and Nehoreka laid the groundwork for the new genre, which gained increasing popularity among the youth. The style was helped by the 100% local content policy in effect at the time, which required all radio stations to play only music by Zimbabwean artists.

A second generation of artists such as Alexio Kawara, Drum Dada, Q Montana, Mokoomba and Nehoreka have come to prominence more recently.[7]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Kendall, Judy and Banning Eyre. "Jit, Mbira and Chimurenga: Play It Loud!". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp. 706–716. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0

External links[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Kendall, Judy; Eyre, Banning (1999). "Jit, Mbira and Chimurenga: Play It Loud!". In Broughton, Simon; Ellingham, Mark; Trillo, Richard. World Music Volume 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East. London: Rough Guides Ltd. pp. 706–716. ISBN 1-85828-635-2. 
  2. ^ a b Berliner, Paul (1978). The Soul of Mbira (1st Paperback ed.). Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press. pp. 17–18. ISBN 0-520-04268-9. 
  3. ^ "mbira musicians". tinotenda.org. Retrieved September 15, 2017. 
  4. ^ "Musician Biographies". mbira.org. Retrieved September 15, 2017. 
  5. ^ Bakare, Lanre (August 9, 2017). "'We feel like aliens': Shabazz Palaces, the hip-hop duo beamed in from another planet". The Guardian. Retrieved September 18, 2017. 
  6. ^ ""Book: Lion Songs, Thomas Mapfumo and the Music That Made Zimbabwe"". banningeyre.com. Retrieved September 15, 2017. 
  7. ^ Denselow, Robin (April 25, 2013). "Mokoomba: Zimbabwe's new sound". The Guardian. Retrieved September 15, 2017.