Sometimes I feel like vomiting when we talk of mbira and ancestors.
Why is it that when people talk of ancestors it’s as if they existed in a remote era in the past and that they would be so offended by anything modern? We talk of ancestors as if there is a cut off point which you should have existed before to be considered a worthy ancestor. I say so because sometimes we seem to struggle with the concept of modernity and our ancestors. What sort of ancestors will we be considering the times that we’ve lived in? Are we going to be the same as the ancestors who lived in 1600?
Welcome to my mini-rant about mbira and ancestors.
Now, I am not an expert on ‘ancestors’ but there is something that I think I am an expert at, something that is really cool. I am an expert at knowing that people continue to die consequently becoming ancestors! What is clear to me is that this cycle of death is continuous hence theoretically the number of ancestors that are most likely to look after us is ever growing and they have all lived in different times. I am convinced therefore that ancestors are not the same just like we are all different at present.
It is the casualness of which we say ‘ancestors this’, ‘ancestors that’ that really drives me mad. I doubt very much the existence of a filter that makes everyone the same when they die, therefore it is annoying that we casually talk of ancestors as if that they are the same. Very annoying.
When it comes to mbira, some will like Bangiza, some maybe Bukatiende, others might like Dande. When you become an ancestor interested in mbira, (for not all ancestors do the mbira thing), what song will tickle your insides? Will you be fussed that some Castle Lager or whatever bottle tops are buzzing, will you be fussed that mbira is played in a fibreglass deze, will you be fussed about who is playing the mbira? I know other ancestors are not fussed about fibreglass dezes or bottle tops because I’ve played at biras where they came and not even once did they say anything about the fibreglass dezes we were using or the Coca-Cola bottle tops around the dezes. Of course they are picky just like us, just like we would be when we are ancestors.
What sort of ancestor will you be and how will you interact with mbira?