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Simbarashe Musaki

Senior Reporter

ARTISTS have rubbished religious hypothetical beliefs that demonize African ethical musical instruments, describing the act as colonial mental slavery designed to veer off natives from their cultural inheritance.

African ethical musical instruments craft masters interviewed by The Statesman News during the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) hog washed the claims with contempt, illuminating that materials used to manufacture guitars played in churches and mbira are bought from the same shops.

Mbira crafter, David Tapfuma said traditional instruments, such as mbira, marimba, shakers (hosho), leg rattles (magavhu) and harp (ngororombe), among others are just natural instruments which describe who we are, therefore associating them with evil spirits is a disgrace.

“Our traditional instruments are just natural instruments that anybody can play, even a Christian, as the materials used to make mbira and marimba is bought from the same shop with those used to manufacture guitars played in churches. As artists we are perplexed with that colonial mental slavery, which demonizes anything which comes from the hands of a black man.

“It is illogical to associate  mbira bought at Mbare Musika Market or HIFA with spirit mediums, as there are formal traditional rituals conducted to make the instrument sacred, in the event it is to be used for traditional ceremonies,” said Tapfuma.

Maungira Enharira songster cum crafter, Wilfred MaAfrica popularly known as Nyamasvisva echoed the same sentiments, disassociating the musical instruments from evil practices, prior to delving into mbira types and uses in African culture.

He said, “It is corrupt to think that traditional instruments are evil. It is a poisonous colonial mentality if not mental slavery which can be relayed from one generation to another. We use Mukwa tree to make these instruments and how can a tree cut from a forest become evil when used to manufacture mbira and become holy if used to make guitars played in churches.

“We have many types of mbira namely, Nhari, Nyunganyunga, Karimba and Njari among others. Nhari is played in central Africa and by the Zezuru tribe in Zimbabwe. This instrument is used as a link between the spirit and people and is the only mbira used for all traditional rituals, such as, Bira.

“Nyunganyunga is used for entertainment purpose in Chipinge and Mutare areas, up to Mozambique. Njari is played for entertainment in Zimbabwe’s Kore Kore areas, such as Hurungwe and Guruve, while Karimba’s roots can be traced from Zambia and Mozambique,” he said.

Spirit mediums such as Sekuru Chaminuka, Kaguvi and Mbuya Nehanda among others were the pillars of the Chimurenga Liberation struggle, as the sole prophets and it is important to note that Nhari was played during most of the ritual ceremonies.

Post-independent Zimbabwe witnessed the multiplication of Christian churches leading to demonizing and relegation of Zimbabwe’s traditional practices to cultural dustbin.      

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