The mbira, often called a thumb piano, is an integral part of Zimbabwean music. It is played while in a halved calabash which amplifies the sound and distorts it using shells or bottle caps placed around the edges. 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, Forward Kwenda, Stella Chiweshe, Chartwell Dutiro, Beauler Dyoko, Cosmas Magaya, Musekiwa Chingodza, Hakurotwi Mude, Chiwoniso Maraire and Tute Chigamba.
Mbira DzeNjari is a mbira music genre popular along the eastern border of Zimbabwe. The mbira instrument has 32 keys, far more complicated than other types of mbira instruments. Not a lot is known about this type of mbira. Foreign students from University of Washington recorded some of the music during the Zimbabwe liberation war in Zimunya communal lands from prominent musicians in the area like Mombo Chiwanza and Nyika Musabayana Zimunya. The latter recorded one known single at Gramma Records, titled: Adzimai garaimwandichema. Other leading mbira groups include MbiraDzenharira, Maungira Enharira and Mbira Dzechirorodziva
There is also pop music in Zimbabwe that incorporates their indigenous instruments. Although the mbira is traditionally played as ceremonial music to call spirits, there are many who play it in world-fusion music and get successful radio play and album sales in Zimbabwe and other countries in Africa. 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).
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, Nicholas Zacharia, Alick Macheso and Zakaria Zacharia. 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.
James Chimombe,whose romantic ballads and the influential sungura guitar melody, (consisting of Lead, Rhythm and base,) made him the a favorite of late 80s. As he played at popular night spots before he became a permanent resident at Club Hide Out 99 which anybody who was somebody, revelled at from Politicians, Businessmen, Celebrities and all who wanted to have a good time.
The 90s was dominated by musicians include Leonard Dembo, the effervescent Khiama Boys, veteran Simon Chimbetu and up coming artistes Alick Macheso, Tongai Moyo and Somadhla Ndebele. The star of the decade was non other than Leonard Zhakata whose musical project was a spin off 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 there is little doubt that the current feud is far from end.
Other artists to come through this decade include Joseph Garakara, Gift Amuli and Daiton Somanje.
Thomas Mapfumo, master of Chimurenga, is probably the best known Zimbabwean musician outside of the country. He began his career singing covers of Western hits in the 1960s, then began moving in a more experimental direction in the following decade. He founded Blacks Unlimited in 1978, by then singing in Shona and using traditional rhythms. By the end of the 1980s, he was using actual mbiras in his band. Chimurenga was a tool of social activism and provided a means of communicating without others knowing (since the lyrics were in Shona).
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.
Jit is a generic term for electric guitar-driven pop, and includes wildly 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.
African Rumba, or 'Soukos' is mostly associated with the Congo-Kinshasa 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. Nowadays, Zimbabwean rumba is more popular than imported rumba.
Gospel music became popular in Zimbabwe in the late 1980s with stars like Jordan Chataika Freedom Sengwayo, Mechanic Manyeruke and Jonathan Wutawunashe was the first star of Zimbabwean gospel, and the genre has continued to grow in popularity. Brian Sibalo and Mechanic Manyeruke also became very popular in the early nineties.
The mid nineties saw the rising of new gospel stars in the mold of Ivy Kombo - Moyo and Carol Chivengwa - Mujokoro of the EGEA gospel Train whose dubut album Mufudzi Wangu was released in 1994 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.
Other gospel artists who emerged from the nineties include Lawrence Haisa, Brother Sam with his hits "Makanaka Jesu" and "Cherechedza", Elias Musakwa, Rita Shinhiwa, The Gospel Trumpet of the "Rose Of Sharon" fame and Shingisai Suluma who only became popular in the early two thousands 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 two thousands, 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
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 made was 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 Amstrong and many others.
See also: Zimbabwean hip hop
Zimbabwean musicians' lyrics mostly contain encouragement of upholding good social values in the family and society as whole. Such lyrics can be seen on songs by artists like Oliver Mtukudzi, Simon Chimbetu, 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 is resembling 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.
This is a new type of music in Zimbabwe that is sung by young musicians and generally appeals more to youthful listeners. Coming on the music scene around 1999 Urban grooves mainly gained ground because of the 100% local content policy advocated for by unpopular former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo. The policy required all radio stations to play only music by local artists for the sake of promoting local talent. This policy was reversed after the expulsion of the Information Minister from government in 2005. The 100% local content policy saw the rising of many new artists like Sanii Makhalima, Roy and Royce, David Chifunyise, Roqui, Leonard Mapfumo, Betty Makaya, Extra Large, Maskiri to mention a few. The style of music closely resembles American Rap, Hip Hop, RnB, Soul and other international music genres.
This "imitation" of the West has resulted in Urban Grooves being unpopular with older listeners and artists who accuse the younger generation of shunning their cultural music and identity. At the moment a young lady that has somewhat tried to increase popularity in the Southern African region is Tia. One of her videos was showcased on the popular African Music Channel (Channel O) and this saw her gaining ground on most urban groovers. However, Channel O has not discreminated any musicians in Zimbabwe and has actually encouraged them to bring forth their music videos. To assist these young talented Urban Groovers in their quest for perfection is a company known as Broadshow Events owned by (Sharon Chatambudza) closely working together with (Kevin Mafunga-Events Co-ordinator). Some of the young talent that the company has signed so far includes the top brass of the Urban Groovers Rocqui, Stunner and XQ.
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
International Library of African Music
TinMan and Mapounds
Dandemutande A non-profit resource for Zimbabwean music & culture
Mbira.org Erica Azim's site, based in Berkeley, CA
Zambuko Solomon Murungu's Shona Music Site
Zimbabwean Music Festival, an annual performance and workshop festival in North America
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