MBIRA - the non-profit organization devoted to Shona mbria music


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Erica Azim
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The MBIRA Catalog
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E-mail: info@mbira.org

Mbira Music
    The Instrument
    Shona Mbira Music
    The Role of Mbira
        in Shona Culture
    Mbira Singing
    Mbira Healing

Musician Biographies

Mbira Makers at Work

Tips on Zimbabwe Travel

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    Kit To Link To Us



    MBIRA Album subscription with special bonus recordings. Subscription choices

    2018-2019 Workshop & Concert Schedule: See Event Calendar.

    LEARN!!! Individual mbira lessons over Skype, anywhere in the world

    Buy mbiras of many tunings. If you don't play yet, get an mbira with the First Mbira Lessons DVD.

    10 instructional DVDs (or Downloads) available on this site!

    Sign up for MBIRA email list

    See our mbira videos

    What is MBIRA - the organization?

    MBIRA is a non-profit organization that celebrates and helps to sustain the ancient musical traditions of Zimbabwe.  MBIRA supports Zimbabwean musicians and instrument makers, and their families, through worldwide Zimbabwean music education, recordings, and performances.  In a country with 95% unemployment (Nov. 2010), this provides critical support in the daily struggle for survival.  MBIRA has also created the largest archive of Shona mbira music in the world, which is a permanent resource for generations to come.

    About Erica Azim, Director

    During MBIRA's 1st 20 years, our support of Zimbabwean musicians has totaled well over 1 MILLION DOLLARS!!! including over $257,000 for 275 recorded musicians, over $690,000 for 27 Zimbabwean instrument makers, and $137,000 to Zimbabwean touring artists.

    "MBIRA helps people make a living while preserving their culture - it's not charity, it's an investment in culture."
    --Chiedza K.

    What is mbira - the instrument?

    Zimbabwe's mbira shown below is a primary traditional instrument of the Shona people, and has been played for over 1,000 years at religious rituals, royal courts, and social occasions. It consists of 22 to 28 metal keys mounted on a hardwood soundboard and is usally placed inside a large gourd resonator (deze). The keys are played with the two thumbs plucking down and the right forefinger plucking up.

    Click to hear an mbira duo on Bangidza. (MP3 format).

    What is mbira - the Zimbabwean musical tradition?

    A Shona mbira piece consists of a basic cyclical pattern which includes numerous intertwined melodies, often with contrasting rhythms. The extensive possibilities for rhythmic and melodic variation render each performance unique. When two mbiras are played together, the interlocking parts result in rich polyphony and polyrhythms.

    A traditional repertoire of hundreds of pieces is transmitted from generation to generation, and pieces popular today are known to have been played over 700 years ago. At traditional Zimbabwean ceremonies (mapira), ancestors are called by performing their favorite songs; thus, the same pieces are retained in the repertoire over the centuries.

    MBIRA, Box 7863, Berkeley, CA 94707-0863, USA, tel (510) 548-6053, email info@mbira.org