Just pulled this article from the Herald. Yet again there is mention of a ‘dying mbira’ scene in Zimbabwe!  Where do these journalists live and how much do they know about mbira actually? 

By Ruth Butaumocho

THE death of two Zimbabwean mbira icons Beaulah Dyoko and Chiwoniso Maraire this year dealt a blow to mbira fans that had hoped that the two would keep the genre alive.

Their involvement with mbira, especially for Chiwoniso, from such a tender age greatly changed the mindsets of many, who regarded mbira as backward and not in sync with the modern era, where sungura and contemporary music has taken centre stage.

However, mbira fans can still have something to look forward to, following the formation of a mbira ensemble, in Harare some months ago.

Going by the name Mutinhimira Wemadzisoko, the five-member ensemble, based in Chitungwiza, is expected to join the remaining few mbira outfits and individuals who have remained loyal to the genre, which is quite popular in Europe but remains largely marginalised at home.

Musicians like the late Dumi Maraire, Chiwoniso, Mbuya Dyoko and Stella Chiweshe managed to win hearts overseas, thanks to the mbira. Even Thomas Mapfumo’s success on the international scene was mainly because his music revolves around mbira.

Zee Makumbe, who fronts the mbira outfit, said, the group has been in existence for some time, although it was formalised at the beginning of this year.

“We have been existence for some time, but we chose to formalise the band at the beginning of this year after we realised many people love mbira music, but they do not have many outlets from which they can access the music. Surprisingly enough, in some circles where we have been holding shows, you realise that people are starved of live mbira performances.

“They also have no idea where they can buy the CDs even if they want to buy the music,” she said.

She added that the group’s port of call would be to revive the waning popularity of the genre by holding shows throughout the country, before touring Europe early next year.

“We want to reconnect with local mbira fans by holding shows throughout the country.

“Yes, there are a lot of mbira musicians and groups in the country, but they are moving uptown and many mbira lovers have no access to the venues,” she said.

Focusing on the group, Zee said the ensemble was putting final touches to their debut album, whose music has been well received by mbira fans, who have had an opportunity to attend their shows.

“We have a number of demo tapes that we did from the time we started up to today. We feel our product has matured and should be put on the market for our fans to sample.

With different musicians using different types of mbira instruments, Mutinhimira Wemadzisoko chose to use mbira dzemudzimu, which are quite popular in Murehwa, where most group members come from.

Apart from Zee, other group members are Herbert Masango, Bylaw Nhundu, Patience Murokotwa and Mejury Mudekwa.

“Mbira is a big genre and we want develop it and take it to another level,” said Zee

Despite being an integral part of Zimbabwe’s culture, mbira seems to be slowly dying on the local scene as young musicians shun the genre. In most parts of the country mbira music is now a preserve of a few traditional ceremonies yet it is the genre that carries the spiritual and cultural identity of Zimbabwean music.