He got up, laughed, shook his head and then all he said was, “A Zimbabwean being taught mbira by a European! Zvakaoma. Who would believe it?!”

mbira lessons

Last Saturday I asked round some friends for an afternoon of mbira, food and drink. We played, chatted and discussed some things to do with mbira. I found the afternoon rather inspiring all round and it resulted in the statement above which I consider a rather delightful moment. I will explain this further on.

Karigamombe obsession

Through meeting people and meeting many students of mbira I’ve felt and observed that Karigamombe is sometimes taken as just a ‘how to learn the mbira’ song. As soon as people are done familiarising themselves to the instrument through the song, they dust up and move on and leave the song untouched. Conjure up images of an unloved for item(s), be it toys, books, a puppy or a kitten, and you will understand how I feel about how Karigamombe is treated. My obsession is for the song to be appreciated for the great song it is and be rescued from its dismal dejection, so last Saturday I decided that it would be great to play the lovely song and teach it to those not familiar with it.  I now make it a point that whenever I am am with mbira players I take the first opportunity to start the song off. 

So it was, that we sat and started playing and teaching each other Karigamombe. In the room; Zimbabweans, an American, a Scots woman and an English guy. After enjoying this for a while, delighted at having learnt Karigamombe, he stood up laughed,  said “A Zimbabwean being taught mbira by a European! Zvakaoma. Who would believe it?!”. Delightful I thought! We all had a laugh about it and it got me thinking.

If only i played a violin…

More and more people from outside Zimbabwe play mbira amazingly. Will there come a time when mbira teachers who are not Zimbabwean go to Zimbabwe and are adored for their amazing playing and teaching skills?

If I played a violin, I would want to be known as an amazing violin player and would want to be respected for my playing and, potentially,  teaching skills too. I would want to be counted among the best. Isn’t the same true for any aspiring mbira player, nationality aside?  I think it is very delightful that people the world over have embraced the instrument and am looking forward to a day when the ‘authenticity’ of being Zimbabwean is not necessarily a key factor of consideration of ability to teach. As I’ve said in the past in previous articles, when it comes to buying mbira instruments, when buying an instrument for performance I totally put the nationality of a maker aside.

Please, please let’s give Karigamombe the love! Have a great weekend people 🙂

On a down note

This interview demonstrates a rather sad fact, Zimbabweans need to engage more with mbira to understand more about it