DOCUMENTATION IN ZIMBABWE 2017
Documenting the Drum Culture of Chiweshe and the Mbira and Sungura Guitar Styles in Zimbabwe
(1st April 2017 – 31st December 2017)
Zimbabwe is home to a great number of unique dance drumming styles located in isolated rural communities which are under threat as young people migrate to the cities to look for work. These drum rhythms are an integral part of the Zimbabwean cultural identity and there are currently no musicians capable of capturing these skills and techniques which could provide the basis for a whole new range of music styles if a group of musicians/teachers were trained to document them properly and find new uses for them in a changing cultural context.
Zimbabwe is also home to some of the most interesting guitar styles incorporating playing techniques, both rhythmic and melodic, from traditional instruments like the mBira (Lamellophone). As many of the best guitarists have already died there is a need to document these playing techniques systematically, including the underlying technical principles used to create the different styles, to enable them to be passed on to future generations.
Developing the proposal
In 2016 the Global Music e.V. applied for a grant to conduct research and documentation in Zimbabwe from the Kulturerhalt (Culture Preservation) program of the German Foreign Ministry in co-operation with the Music Crossroads Trust Zimbabwe and the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe.
The aim of the grant proposal was to train the teachers at the Academy to document their own cultural heritage on video using modern recording technology and show them how to develop teaching videos and teaching materials which capture the essential elements of the music in order to empower them to develop relevant new curriculum for their teaching program at the Academy.
This project represents the second stage of the development of the Academy, having learnt to read, write and transcribe African music, the task of documenting their rich musical culture was the next step to take.
Project Aims and Objectives
- To capture the music in two separate culture areas – Dance Drumming (including accompanying songs) and two important Zimbabwean Guitar Styles based on traditional instrument techniques which arose during the 20th century.
- To develop a series of videos as a result of the research and documentation which will preserve and document the music collected in such a way that they can be used for teaching purposes, not only in the new curriculum for the Academy but also in other institutions in Zimbabwe and within the Global Music Campus Network.
- To train a group of teachers at the Music Crossroads Academy Zimbabwe in documentation techniques, using video, audio and written transcriptions to ensure that the trainees are capable of conducting the research and documentation autonomously by the end of the project.
Development of two main intellectual outputs
- A methodology for conducting documentation based on the experiences gained and lessons which can be used as a model for capturing oral music culture by the partner organizations based on a peer-to-peer learning approach.
- A series of teaching videos and curricula to be shared with all the partner countries documenting the results.
Drum Rhythms of Chiweshe
The documentation team documented 7 drum rhythms from 3 different villages in the Chiweshe communal lands 140km north of Harare. A total of 7 villages were visited and the 3 were chosen because they represented the 3 different contexts in which the drumming is currently being used.
The Dzivaguru-Chimbikiza Shrine at Guzha Village
The Guzha Village is located 33km north of the Nzvimbo Growth Point on the Chiweshe road to Chaona. The village, which lies beneath the Chiburi mountain, is home to a sacred Shona shrine which is dedicated to Dzivaguru – one of the great Mhondoro Yenyika or Makombwe spirits. The shrine is a good example of the drumming in a form close to its original ancestral use in the contect of the Shona belief system.
If you travel 16km north from the Nzvimbo Growth Point on the Chiweshe road towards Chaona you will reach the turn-off to Nyakudya Shopping Centre which lies 4,7km to the East on a dirt road. The village is situated close to the Nyakudya shopping centre and is the home of the Dzomutizo Cultural Group. Nyakuzdya Village provides a typical example of how the drumming is used in normal village life in the area.
Gweshe Village is located 18km south of the Nzvimbo Growth Point just off the southbound Chiweshe road to Glendale and is the home of the Nhare dze Chiweshe Cultural Group. Gweshe Village and the group which performs there provides an example of the drumming being used in the more modern context of income generation.
The Rhythms Documented
Zimbabwean Guitar Styles
In addition the team documented two of the three main guitar styles in Zimbabwe. The Mbira and Sungura guitar styles. The leading exponents of the two styles were invited to the Music Crossroads Academy to record their particular contribution to the development of the style in question. In the case of the Mbira guitar style all the main exponents apart from Moses Nyaruka are already dead.
The Mbira guitar style
- Moses Mullah Nyaruka (one of the few surviving early Mbira guitarists)
- Clive ‘Mono’ Mukundu (one of the next generation of guitarists)
- Brian Nhanhanga (one of the next generation of guitarists)
The Sungura guitar style
- Nicholas Zachariah And The Khiama Boys (one of the founders of the Sungura style)
- Donald Gogo (one of the founders of the Sungura style)
- Innocent Mujintu (one of the founders of the Sungura style)
- Sulumani Chimbetu And The Orchestra Dendera Kings (the son one of the founders of the Sungura style who has continued his fathers tradition)
In the second part of the project the team produced two educational Booklets with accompanying DVDs containing the transcriptions of the documented music, the video recordings made as well as the interviews made with the musicians. These were printed and distributed in Zimbabwe to educational institutions, libraries, researchers and musicians.
In addition a set of drums was acquired by the Music Crossroads Academy and the drums styles are now being taught in the percussion program there. The transcriptions of the guitar styles are also being used in the academy program to give the students a deeper understanding of their guitar traditions.