By Zvamaida  Murwira (The Herald)

Mbira music must be popularised as part of measures to preserve Zimbabwe’s cultural heritage, President Mugabe has said. The Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces said mbira music also had potential to revolutionise the local arts industry.

President Mugabe said this soon after receiving a specially made mbira instrument from Mbira Centre director Mr Albert Chimedza at Zanu-PF headquarters in Harare on Wednesday.

The presentation of the special mbira, made with non-rusting material and inscribed with the President’s totem, Gushungo, was also a gift for his 90th birthday, which fell on February 21, 2014.

“He (Mr Chimedza) is working on mbira to be much more popular, just as playing the guitar,” said President Mugabe.

“Let’s keep it together and let’s have it. We certainly want you to keep up the good work that you are doing. Our focus, really, is for people to know mbira for our cultural pride.”

President Mugabe said when he first heard that he would receive a mbira instrument he did not realise that it would be of such high quality.

“When (Presidential Spokesperson) Cde (George) Charamba told me that there is a present of mbira coming, I did not know that it would be in this varied form,” he said.

“It’s very sophisticated and very scientific.”

Mr Chimedza also handed over five mbira instruments for the President to donate to schools of his choice.

He said he intended to establish a nationally-oriented mbira orchestra to help preserve Zimbabwe’s intellectual capital, which he said was for years stigmatised.

“It’s a national commitment to our own intellectual capital, property and identity,” said Mr Chimedza.

“Mbira music has often been ostracised and marginalised for over a century because we have not invested in it the same way we have invested in other people’s intellectual property. Our education system must demonstrate that emphasis.

“The Gushungo mbira is verifiably the best sounding and most beautiful mbira that the Mbira Centre has made so far. With this mbira, we have achieved a new level of mbira production excellence that we intend to build upon,” he said.

Mr Chimedza said the Mbira Centre had capacity to make around 100 000 mbira instruments and give 10 to every school in the country.

Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo has said the Mbira Centre in Highlands, Harare, is integral to marketing Zimbabwe’s cultural heritage.

Mr Chimedza employs 15 people, some of them physically challenged, and produces at least 100 instruments weekly.

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