If you’ve been following the visible mbira scene in Zimbabwe over the past few years, one is driven to wonder whether most young and emerging female mbira players mostly play the nyunga nyunga and less of mbira dzavadzimu/huru, (still uncomfortable using this term and it makes no sense to me but it helps more people understand what I’m referring to), or any other mbira type in Zimbabwe.
I would like to make clear some few things that are quite important for the perspective that has influenced my thoughts to write this quick and short post.
- the visible mbira scene: I am referring to the mbira scene that gets media coverage, publicity or airplay in Zimbabwe, reaching people who wouldn’t usually go out in search of mbira music. You can think in terms of Hip Hop, there is the underground (though others argue that underground is no more) and the ‘pop’ hip hop. In mbira terms, I see an underground mbira scene as well as the a pop scene. With the underground scene you have to make an effort to find it and usually you also have to know what you are looking for, where to get it and be ‘in the loop’. In this article I will talk mostly about the pop scene in Zimbabwe.
- In hope “in Zimbabwe” is self explanatory. I have found that most of the mbira most people on the international scene are listening to is not the same to that that most people in Zimbabwe are exposed to through the media.
For a while when people spoke of female players from Zimbabwe names like Stella Chiweshe, Mbuya Dyoko and Mbuya Madhuve would usually spring up. These players were famous for playing traditional mbira music on mbira dzavadzimu in a male dominated scene. And then Chiwoniso emerged!
Chiwoniso broke onto the scene playing nyunga nyunga and delivering a different type of music than the ‘usual’ mbira music people were used to. She of course used mbira dzavadzimu in some of her music but it was other players who would play the instrument (players such as the late Adam Chisvo). It seems things changed immediately because most young female players that have emerged since mostly play nyunga nyunga. Think of Hope Masike and Ammara Brown. One exception I’ve seen recently is from a picture of Selmor Mtukudzi during HIFA.
Are there any young female players out there playing other types of mbira or has the nyunga nyunga become Zimbabwean ladies’ mbira of choice?