I hope you are going to enjoy this new way to get the latest MBIRA news, old stories of mbira in Zimbabwe the 1970′s, and other mbira musings that I never have time to write up in a longer format.
MBIRA news tidbit of the day:
A new mbira tuning we’re selling, made by Leonard Chiyanike is called Muchenje Dongonda. Muchenje is a type of termite, but the common meaning is “groovy, exciting”. This tuning is exactly an octave higher than Dambatsoko tuning (played by the Mujuru clan), and sounds exciting played together with Dambatsoko tuning. Because it is a dongonda (right hand keys an octave lower than usual), the right hand keys of the Muchenje Dongonda are the same pitch as those of the Dambatsoko, so the high lines interlock beautifully. You can get one.
Old memory of the day:
My first mbira lesson, in Zimbabwe, when I was 20 years old in 1974, was on a steam train. Until then, I was a self-taught mbira player, although I had studied karimba/nyunganyunga mbira with Dumi Maraire (back when he was still called Abraham). Zimbabwe was still Rhodesia (to picture that, think of whatever you have heard about apartheid South Africa, it was very similar), and I was the only white person riding in 4th class on that train. I had heard Dumi say that music happened in 4th class, but nothing was happening, and the train was very VERY slow.
I took out my mbira and played softly. The man across the aisle from me asked, “What are you playing?” At that moment, I was playing my attempt at learning Taireva from a tape of a Zimbabwean 45 rpm record of an mbira group. After I answered, “Taireva,” he said, “Come sit next to me and I’ll show you how to play Taireva.” He taught me the basic kushaura part for Taireva, and I was thrilled, playing it the rest of the day on the train. He was a textile mill worker, traveling home on vacation to visit his family. I never saw him again, and am sad to say I no longer remember his name.
Although I had failed to learn Taireva correctly from the record, I believe that my attempts to learn mbira by ear, and constant listening to recordings of mbira, have been the most important elements of my development as an mbira player. I highly recommend that mbira students do lots of listening to many musicians playing each piece they are learning, or want to learn. That is easy to do now, with MBIRA’s Mbira Piece Intensive CDs/Downloads. And, beginning mbira students far from Zimbabwe or a teacher have lots of help, with MBIRA’s Student Series DVDs of mbira lessons for 2 pieces, and For Practice CDs with each part played separately for 5 pieces (to practice with or learn from if you have a good ear).