By Godwin Muzari (The Herald)
Although it is regarded as an important component of our cultural heritage, mbira music is losing ground to emerging genres and the beat’s survival now depends on few enthusiasts and promoters that are passionate to convince mbira players to hang on.
Among the enthusiasts is South Africa-based Zimbabwean computer software developer, Godfrey Mungadze, whose zeal has led to the creation of the first ever local computer application for the mbira instrument.
The 34-year-old computer expert stunned mbira players and makers at The Mbira Centre on Wednesday when he availed the application as part of the ongoing Mbira Month celebrations.
Through Mungadze’s creation, genyambiras can now play their favourite instrument on new technology gadgets just like they are plucking the actual traditional instrument.
The 34-year-old software developer demonstrated his invention to the delight of Mbira Centre director Albert Chimedza, who has done a lot of research on the mbira instrument and mbira music.
Mungadze is optimistic about the potential of his invention in taking mbira music to another level internationally.
“The app is compatible with phones, iPads and many other computer gadgets. It approximates the physical mbira instrument that we are used to and the sound and keys are the same,” said Mungadze.
“Through this invention, we hope to overcome the constraints of labour involved in making the physical mbira instrument. The aim is to market the instrument to young generations and the international market through the fast growing information technology sector.”
Chimedza hailed Mungadze for coming up with the app.
“This is a great invention for our industry. It is far beyond most expectations. He is a great inventor and his demonstration of how it works was marvelous. I am approaching relevant ministries with him to show them this amazing work. It will definitely take mbira music to another level,” said Chimedza.
Mungadze said the idea came after he approached a local gallery looking for mbira instrument and could not get it. He was referred to Chimedza.
“In January I was looking for mbira and we went to a certain gallery and they didn’t have the instrument. They gave me Albert’s phone number and we went to the Mbira Centre.
“After touring the centre Albert asked me about my profession. I told him and we agreed than something could be done for mbira heritage from my expertise. That is how it all began.”
Because of a tight schedule at his base in SA, Mungadze took three months to come with the application, which will be finalised soon and launched here later this year.
His passion for mbira music contributed to the great invention.
“Mbira is an instrument that I have always been fascinated with. I enjoy mbira music among other genres and I wanted to have the instrument. Now I can play it on computer.
“There are some features that we still want to add. When we add and test thoroughly then we will avail it to the public. We will do the official launch in Zimbabwe.”
The software developer studied computers at Kwekwe Polytechnic before joining a local company in 1999. He worked in designing small applications and left the country after a few years to further his studies in South Africa.
He formed a computer software company called Code Interlace that has developed applications for organisations involved in mining, media, manufacturing, petroleum and fashion designing.