In the seventies it took Thomas Mapfumo and guitarist Jonah Sithole to transcribe the sounds of the mbira to electric guitar and sing in Shona, as opposed to playing American rock covers. This was a breakthrough moment for Mapfumo and set the platform for his rise to popularity.
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 stroke the keys in the right register from above and below. The fingers of the left hand stabilize the left side of the instrument, with most fingers reaching behind the instrument. Both registers on the left side of the instrument are played with the left thumb and sometimes the left forefinger. 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 it 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. The mbira dza vadzimu is very significant in Shona religion and culture, and considered a sacred instrument. It is usually played to facilitate communication with ancestral spirits. Within the Shona tradition, the mbira may be played with paired performers in which the kushaura, the caller, leads the performed piece as the kutsinhira, the responder, "interlocks" a subsequent part. The Ritual is known as the Bira. During these all night ceremonies, people call upon the spirits to answer questions, the variations of notes in an Mbira piece aid the participants by going into a trance in which it is said in shona culture aid the spirits in taking over the participants body.
(most of the above taken from Wiki)
Many friends of mine in Zimbabwe have hired Mbira groups to play all night when moving into a new house...in essence to settle the spirits. And so without further ado three lovely albums of Mbira music.
Two rare albums from the Mazai Mbira Group.
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And re-loaded from Matsuli, the classic Music of the Spirit album from Ephat Mujuru. This legendary album single handedly popularised mbira music in Southern Africa. This project was specially commissioned by Gramma Records on the first anniversary of Zimbabwe's independence. Ephat Mujuru's band Mudzimu waVanhu (Spirit of the People) included the late Thomas Wadharwa (sekuru) Gora, Forbes Gushungo, Martha Mujuru, Martha Tembo, Lovemore Chiripanyanga and Patrick Mberi. File next to Paul Berliner's field recording of Mhuri yekwa Rwizi's Soul of Mbira.
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