Shona people and music (Part 2)

In the previous article we appreciated the dominance of mbira in Shona music. We now look at how colonisation and modernisation impacted the Shona music stage.

Shona music was much more than just a song in the Shona language. Traditional Shona songs were performed to the accompaniment of drum beats, mbira and hosho (gourds with seeds inside for shaking ). The songs were rhythmic and void of emphasis on meter making it possible for everyone in the society to join in.

Shona I mbira players
Drum,mbira and hosho being played

Shona people had songs for everything and about everything. They sang in protest, praise, play and work. Apart from being mere art music was the social medium of instruction in the Shona society. People would gather around a fire to here folklore over mbira music. Such gatherings were important because young people would learn a lot about the Shona people’s roots and beliefs.

It was the arrival of colonisers that brought about significant changes. Missionaries banned Shona instruments and replaced rhythm music with hymns.

Post Independence Shona music like the rest of their lifestyle hurried on to keep abreast with world trends. This saw the adoption of foreign instruments and genres while relagating mbira to areas where tradition was still revered particularly the rural areas.

A few musicians among them Jah Prayzah, Hope Masike and the late mbira queen Chiwoniso Maraire have made notable efforts to keep Shona music alive by fusing traditional instruments with the modern ones.

Music is now a lucrative career and what sales is what is being pursued. Undiluted traditional Shona music is fast being discarded by upcoming artist as they search for quick fame and money

The great question remains: What can be done to ensure our artists continue to give us music that identifies with our culture whilst also helping them to remain relevant and able to make a living off their music?

However it is refreshing that Shona singers have continued being social commentators to this day. Oliver Mtukudzi one of Zimbabwe’s most successful singers addresses various issues in his music . Mtukudzi’s music uses deep Shona with proverbs and idioms to invite critical eyes towards issues such as violence, child marriages and inheritance.

Disclaimer/ All images used are not my own

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