After mastering making, playing and teaching Mbira, even to the blind, St Giles teacher, Trust Mutekwa, has added penmanship to his list of talents.
Affectionately known as Ticha Muzavazi, Mutekwa launched his first book, a tutorial titled Nyunga Nyunga Mbira handbook at a packed Alliance Française last month. The event was graced by Mbira players, students, educationists and musicians, among them ethnomusicologist Hector Mugani and Mbira Centre director Albert Chimedza.
To give resonance to the writing were performances by Alexio Kawara, St Giles Band, Murehwa Resource Unit for the Blind, and the Jairos Jiri Band, all jamming to the traditional instrument.
Mutekwa said the absence of reference material for the instrument apart from the basic information and notes found at teacher training institutions and music colleges drove him to write his book.
“I went around teacher training colleges around the country trying to get notes on playing Mbira but only got the basics that I had during my training at Morganstar Teachers College in 1998,” said Mutekwa.
Mutekwa took the audience through his writing process which includes consulting players and teachers and jotting down notes he later used in educating Mbira enthusiasts. The build up to the handbook included playing and learning with some of the Mbira greats such as the late Chiwoniso Maraire and Taku Mafika.
“Back in 2007 I took myself for a brilliant player so I could go around looking for players to challenge. That’s when I met the late Taku Mafika after being introduced to him by Jeff Warara,” said Ticha Muzavazi.
“We sat in Harare Gardens taking turns to play copying each other’s melody. Taku had this way of playing that was so hard to copy so in the end I ended up complimenting his sound instead of imitating it.”
Mafika fell in love with Mutekwa’s skills and invited him to be part of his band. They played together for some time but Ticha Muzavazi had to focus more on teaching his students at St Giles.
The idea to publish first hit Mutekwa in 2013. He compiled his notes targeting to publish the following year but had to shelve his plans in respect of further education at the University of Zimbabwe.
“I realised my notes were so simple and easy to understand as I could teach some people online and even over the phone with great success,” said Mutekwa.
Upon finishing his compilation last year, Ticha Muzavazi sent out his book to various music teacher and players both locally and internationally, and found them all able to grasp it with ease.
After its launch, the Nyunga Nyunga Mbira Handbook reached both local and international markets. “I’ve shipped books to New York, Brazil, and Australia. Requests have been so high that I’m actually working on translating the book to French and Portuguese to cater for the international markets,” said Mutekwa.
Locally the book is being distributed to different teacher training colleges, book shops, and art centres. “I’m also looking at making a soft-copy edition to be sold online,” he added.
The handbook is an instruction guideline on how to play Nyunga Nyunga, a type of Mbira. It has 85 visual aids on YouTube making it easy to grasp without the assistance of a tutor.
Trust Mutekwa is a renowned Mbira maker, player and teacher. He is also responsible for organising the annual Special Schools Festival which caters for special needs children.