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Gurevolution in Glendale

The Mbira journey with Hector Mugani

Mbira Mbiravolution

 

So recently I moved to Glendale which is in the Mazowe Valley, 60km from Harare. My greatest excitement was to find a lot of mbira players and would be in good mbira company. Well to my surprise I have not yet met any everyone has just referred me to the legendary David Gweshe who does not leave in Glendale but a few Kilometers away at an area called Gweshe. I have gone around and most mbira players here have turned to the Mapostori (Apostolic)

Church which shuns practicing ‘traditional culture’ (But the struggle continuous I know I am going to find someone). However the Gure culture is lively and blooming here.

Sunday 22 June, I heard a familiar drumming form the direction of 007 Night Club, at Valley shopping center, Glendale. I instantly went to the place when the big venue had a considerable crowd cheering on the Gure dancers and drummers. I had not been to a Gure event in ages thus was excited.

The Gure where astonishingly well-dressed and not ordinary. They were dressed in nicely swan yellow uniforms with strips of the rest of the Zimbabwean flag unlike the usual maize bags and grass. The masks where more artistic and well made. I took away the usual rough touch on the Gure appearance. A more polished arts product well branded Gure group.

With this I was in a doubt of how authentic the dances would be from this high class look group of masked dancers. I also look at the well-dressed Ngoma players and at an instant though this act was too groomed to be an authentic Gure act and also them being on the stage, something I had just seen at Chibuku neShamwari Dance Competitions. This happened in my mind in split seconds and before the thought matured the drumming began which instantly inflamed the Gure into a dancing trance.

The audience went crazy ululating and whistling, and yes it was authentic Gure dances. It was a more polished Gure product that was well presented and branded. It exhibited cultural pride in the dancers which was really contagious to the audiences.

This was a reminder that in the old golden days the traditional cultural art was made by the top artisans in the society. It was a treasured skill which kept on developing and the architects would keep on perfecting their art work. And the advent of the colonial era brought a hold to this. This forced most African artistic cultural practice on the arts black market. Cultural practitioners were considered spiritual and mentally prehistoric and demonic thus practiced in the shadows of the general population. This then brought about the game of survival thus the use of recycled material and new names for activities. For example Mbende ended up being called Jerusarema.

The mbira was made by the top blacksmiths from the society. Unlike now, it was not made from recycled material but the artisans would select good material to make them. This also goes for other cultural practise which were made of high quality material. And we should bear in mind that iron was one of the most important resources at that time of history, even a metal badza (hoe) was good rora/ lobola (bride price) in these days.

I adored the Gure Dancers and the effort to make a cool look of the dance. It’s time to think of the traditional culture as a new product rather than a recycled product. In 2002, I got a new mbira and Micheal ‘Tamec’ Mubaiwa, a Zimbabwe Hip-Hop musician, asked me why they all look old even if they are new. My only disappointment was there was no dust where the Gure were dancing. I really like the way they kick the soil when they dance.

 

Hector Rufaro Mugani is an Ethnomusicologist, Arts Cultural Practitioner, Developer and Activist, experimental mbira player. He is also an arts administrator and event’s organizer. 

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