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Last update: 2023-03-11
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João Sande de Ntothoto (João Nyamabangwe) 1942-2022

Bangwe, Kalimba mudoko, and guitar player

Phone of his son Titos Sande: +258 87 134 7919
Place of residence: Nhanzonia, Barwe district, Manica province


João Sande de Ntothoto, also known as João Nyamabangwe, was born in Búzua, Tambara district. He belongs to the Vabuzva community of the Tonga people, like his parents who are also from Búzua. His totem is Chirenje. The praise name "Nyamabangwe" refers to his playing skills on the bangwe, but he also played kalimba mudoko and guitar.

Sekuru Nyamabangwe passed away in 2022, the information on this page is from his son Jeremias.

About the Bangwe

The bangwe is a board zither from central and northern Mozambique and Malawi. A single wire is stretched from end to end through holes in the soundboard, resulting in 7-14 playable strings. There are various tonal systems and playing techniques, including strumming while muting the unwanted strings.

In central Mozambique, the tuning is [generally near equi-] heptatonic, according to Andrew Tracey. The open strings are plucked with the thumbs and forefingers of both hands, and the repertoire overlaps with the region's lamellophones. Mbira music was played on stringed instruments long before the advent of the guitar!

Jeremias explains that the bangwe was originally played for both spiritual and entertainment purposes. In recent times, many people have converted to Christianity, and some players, including his father, continue to play bangwe for church activities.

Sande's music

Jeremias agreed to publish his father's recordings as part of this project.

His father had a large traditional repertoire, but after joining the church, he was no longer allowed to play his old songs that were not related to the church. He can only remember a few traditional songs:

Jeso arikubwera (~Jesus is coming), with Dona Gilda Mandigo

Anabwera pomwe mbuya yeso (~Jesus will return to save us) Pt.1

Anabwera pomwe mbuya yeso (~Jesus will return to save us) Pt.2

Unknown song 1 (audio only)

Unknown song 2 (audio only)

Unknown song 3 (audio only)

Jeremias João Sande

Born in 1990, he grew up learning the guitar. When he started, he remembers, the bangwe was considered an old instrument that is no longer in fashion.
Sekuru Nyamabangwe with his (still young) son Jeremias
Jeremias Sande today with his father's instrument
He wishes for his father to be acknowledged as a skilled musician who played not only the bangwe but also the guitar and kalimba mudoko. Despite his father's musical talent, he did not achieve fame. He holds the belief that this form of music should make a return in the future.

However, a significant challenge is finding proficient players and instrument makers due to the nowadays prevailing perception that these indigenous instruments are cursed and associated with demons. As a result, the skills of instrument playing and crafting are diminishing. He advocates for greater efforts to learn about these instruments and pass on the knowledge to others to preserve our cultural heritage:

"God created us with the intent to use these instruments to express our culture. Não existe a cultura maior que a outra (There is no culture greater than the other)".

Nyamabangwe's instrument

This bangwe was made by Sekuru João's younger brother who lives in Búzua and also plays the instrument.
Bangwe inside resonator,
with bottletop buzzers

Bangwe tuning

Here is a string-by-string recording of Nyamabangwe's instrument.

Bangwe tuning pt.1

Bangwe tuning pt.2