Celebrations marking September as the mbira month kicked off with a film that traces the journey of the mbira music into the Diaspora and its phenomenal growth in North America, South Africa and Australia.
The documentary, “Soul Resonance” By Laurel & Douglas Epps is about how the late mbira exponent, Dumisani Maraire, sets off from Zimbabwe in the early 1960s at the invitation of American academics, triggering off enormous interest and rapid growth, egged on by enthusiastic appreciation by communities in that part of the globe.
The film is about the transformative impact of the mbira music; how in particular the North Americans have not only learnt much about the music but have gone on to innovate with it; embellished it; and how it has spawned skills’ workshops in educational institutions and communities as well as fuelling production of the musical instruments.
There will be a series of discussions throughout Mbira Month, which among other things will explore how mbira music and playing can be introduced into the mainstream educational system along with how the instrument is produced. It is expected that the outcomes from these discussions will result in publication of a book.
Guest of honour at the launch of the celebrations, the new Chairperson of the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, Dr Nozipo Maraire, said the mbira was very much part of who she is. She is the daughter of Dr Nkosana Maraire, brother to the late mbira maestro Dumisani Maraire.
Explaining her nexus with mbira music, Dr Nozipo Maraire, said when Professor Robert Kaufman from the University of Washington in Seattle, in the US, offered Dumisani Maraire the post of musician-in-residence, Dumisani Maraire worked hard to bring his brother, Nkosana, over to America.
“Then my family went over and joined our father. So if it had not been for mbira music I would not be where I am today. I owe the mbira everything I have become.”
Throughout the month of September events will take place at different times in different cultural venues. These include The National Gallery of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Film and Television Training School – ZIFTESSA, Alliance Francaise, Book Café and The Mbira Centre. Activities will include film screenings, performances, discussions and mbira related papers to be presented and discussed at various venues and an mbira photographic exhibition.
Alongside the Jikinya Dance Festival and the Chibuku Neshamwari Festival the mbira celebrations have the potential of becoming a major event on the Zimbabwean cultural calendar.