September was Mbira month. Mbira Month was founded by mbira maestro Albert Chimedza to create awareness and appreciation of mbira in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe Mbira Festival is the flagship event of Mbira Month and this year it was held at Prince Edward School under the theme “Mbira and Education.”
The Zimbabwe Mbira Festival celebrates the mbira instrument and highlights its national significance to the general public. The two-day festival featured a variety of events which included renditions of popular traditional mbira songs, seminars, workshops, film screenings, and competitions. This year, eleven primary schools and a variety of secondary and missionary schools from all over the country took part. The Harare Polytechnic and Midlands State University students also came through.
Festival director Albert Chimedza said, “We have had mbira in Zimbabwe for about a thousand years. It appeals to people all over the world and has great potential for contributing to education, income generation, employment and Zimbabwean cultural diplomacy. As Zimbabweans, we grossly underestimate the degree to which mbira can financially, culturally and intellectually contribute to Zimbabwe’s well-being. If we continue to have this attitude, other countries will invest in the mbira and reap the benefits.”
The festival was also open to professional mbira players who performed in non-competition. Dr. Tafataona Mahoso and the Chihota Mbira Group were some of the participants who delighted the crowd.
Harare News spoke to Tendai Mavengeni, a form three pupil at Mabelreign Girls High who was part of the festival. Mavengeni is the youngest mbira recording artist in Zimbabwe. “The festival is such a unique experience. It’s given me an opportunity to interact with other young mbira players. I got a chance to perform with Prince Edward School students and we explored other things that we had not done before in playing mbira.”
This year’s winner of Best Mbira Ensemble was St. Martin’s Convent School. “From mbira the education system and school children learn about music and their culture. They can develop psychomotor and analytical skills which can be transferred to other areas of their lives. They also learn teamwork, collaboration and gain self-confidence by becoming used to performing in front of audiences,” said Chimedza.
Every year the festival is free and open to all schools, colleges and universities. The festival also included tournaments for traditional games like nhodo, pada and tsoro.
Image: Mbira players young and old came together for the annual Mbira Festival.