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Last update: 2023-01-08 Stefan Franke
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Visibility for mbira makers and players in rural Mozambique

In October 2022, Tatenda Lenade Cangola and SR initiated a project with the goal of locating mbira makers players and makers in the Mozambican border regions near Zimbabwe, and provide them with media visibility, so that

To this end The desired long-term impact of the project is the preservation of local mbira culture. The desired short- and medium-term effect is the creation of new economic bases for culture bearers, as well as the creation of new narratives to counteract the stigmatisation of traditional rural (music) culture in Christian-religious and urban contexts.

Tatenda transporting (increasingly hard-to-find) mupepe wood to a kalimba maker

Tatenda is a student and mbira player in Chimoio, Mozambique who is actively working to preserve the local mbira culture in his homeland of Manica and Tete provinces, which have a rich and diverse mbira history. Like the Matepe/Karimba culture in rural northeastern Zimbabwe, it is facing a threat of disappearing due to a number of reasons, not least the fierce intolerance from local pentecostal churches.

For outsiders, the borderlands on the Mozambique side are more difficult to access, certainly more perilous, and from the perspective of the capital and its mbira scene, significantly more remote than in Zimbabwe. On today's media map it is practically a blank spot.

Manica Province (source: Google Maps)
Tete Province (source: Google Maps)

So far Tatenda has encountered players and makers of the kalimba nkulu and kalimba mudoko (large and small karimba), and has heard from other musicians who play matepe, nyonganyonga, njari, mana embudzi, and bangwe instruments - the whole variety heard on old ILAM recordings, partly considered extinct. Similar music is played on all of these instruments, a repertoire which likely originated from the mixing of various musical cultures from the lower Zambezi Valley in the ancient trading center of Tete.

Sr. Macequessa playing a kalimba nkulu/karimba with left index manual, thought to be extinct. Youtube »

Repatriating ILAM recordings

At the start of their fieldwork in the Zimbabwean borderlands in 2016/17, Jocelyn Mory and Zack Moon had compiled a collection of over 400 Hugh & Andrew Tracey recordings as well as photographs from the archives of the International Library of African Music (ILAM) - many from Mozambique. The ILAM has a repatriation agenda to make their audio and visual documents available to the families and descendants of the original musicians, most of whom have passed away meanwhile. Unfortunately, the funds for this are often lacking. On their travels, Jocelyn and Zack always had a handful of SD memory cards with copies of the files to pass on - a suitable mobile phone from a family member or friend can usually always be found. With the support of ILAM, we are continuing this practice in Mozambique.

Tatenda handing SD card to Sekuru Kapampanta
Kapampanta's kalimba mudoko. Youtube »


So far, Tatenda and I have managed the project with our own resources. He invests his time off from university in traveling for weeks, and I support him with the travel expenses and equipment. I'm happy to give the savings for my next trip to Zimbabwe, because Tatenda, speaking all the local dialects, visits places that outsiders don't get to at all, or only with significantly greater financial and time effort - and does so with a minimal budget. Unfortunately, these funds are already practically exhausted, and in addition to further trips, we would like to finance better equipment: a mobile recorder, phone with good camera, laptop/keyboard tablet, storage media, tripod, solar charger and power banks.

Therefore, I would like to appeal for donations. I think a constellation like this will not occur any time soon, the economic circumstances in Mozambique are simply too difficult. And also Tatenda will have to dedicate himself to his professional and family future soon.

Even small amounts help, e.g. for the purchase of memory cards. For larger amounts we can offer to bring our own focal points and questions into the field research, we are happy to share our documentary videos, and we will make the budget (Google Sheet) transparent.

Here's our Paypal fundraiser: https://www.paypal.com/pools/c/8QeRWj63z2!

For more details, please get in touch!

- Stefan