Category Archives: Shona Blog


A Shona Short story

Mudzimai afa.

Moyo wako ngauchifara. Wainetseka kuti uchagura sei muchato, heyi mhinduro kumunamato wako.

Dzimwe nguva zvatinoshuvira pazvinouya igangaidzo mukwenyi wemhezi yavavira mudumbu.

Parufu chinotambudza afirwa hakusi kurasikirwa chete, asi kuwana. Rufu harwutore bedzi; asi panzvimbo peatorwa rwunokusiira ndangariro dzinorwadza. Rufu rwunosiya mibvunzo inonetsa kupindura. Rufu rwunokupa zvausina kukumbira.

Ndaidisa chose kuparadzana nemudzimai wangu, asi kwete nenzira iyi yetsaona ndichienda kunomusiya kumusha kwavo.  Ndakanga ndava nenguva ndichimutsvakira mhosva. Paakazopedza kubvunza panhare kuti ndiani, ndakanga ndotorongedza hembe dzake mumota. Murume akanga afona panhare yomudzimai pakati pohusiku, ndakanga ndatoti  ndiye rusununguko rwangu.

Mufunge ndiri mumwe wevaya aifunga kuti ndakakurumidza kuroora ndisati ndanyatsoona nyika. Ndaiva ndichangopedza chikoro pandakamupa pamuviri. Pandakazoti ndoshanda ndakatanga kuona chaivo vandaiti velevel rangu.

Nehasha dzenhema handina kunge ndaona dhongi raiva mumugwagwa. Ndakabuda mutsaona iyi ndisina kana nyora imwe chete zvayo. Ronda guru rakava pamoyo. Pfungwa ikava besanwa. Hasha dzinopera. Hama dzomudzimai dzaiziva kuti ndakange ndisisade mwana wavo. Ndakanga ndatofonera vose kuti ndaiiuya kuzosiya “pfambi yavo”.

Rufu rwunomutsa dzimwe nguva.

Ndigere pano, ndakatarisa bhokisi remudzimai wangu. Unoviga sei munhu asina chaakakutadzira? Hama dzake hadzipo pano, sekuru vake bedzi ndivo vataura neni hanzi:

wedu tinomuda arimupenyu.

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

Shona People and Music (Part 1)

Shona people are well-known for mbira music. Mbira refers to both the type of music and the instrument that produces the music.

Mbira is made by mounting at most 28 metal keys on to a piece of hard wood. The mounted piece will often be enclosed inside a big goud called gwariva or deze which is used to amplify the sound

Mbira instrument
Mbira instrument

In the above picture the deze can be seen decorated with bottle tops which will fuse the mbira sound with a whispering buzz for a percussion effect.

Though used for entertainment mbira instrument is  much more spiritual to the Shona people. Mbira music is hypnotic and often used as a key when one seeks audience with vadzimu (ancestors). For this reason missionaries who came to Zimbabwe precolonization discouraged the use of  this instrument calling it evil.

There are different types of mbira often differentiated by the number of keys on each instrument. The most common is the Mbira dzavadzimu (Mbira of the ancestors). Dzavadzimu has 22-28 metal keys. The smaller version of mbira is called Mbira nyunga nyunga which has up to 15 metal keys.

Mbira nyunga nyunga

Mbira music has survived among the Shona people for over 700years. Modern musicians fuse it with modern instruments to produce a unique sound. In my next article I will look at how Shona music has evolved into the modern sphere.

Meanwhile, here is a YouTube video to give you a feel of the mbira sounds of the Shona people.

Shona Marriage customs

I wanted to do a post on the Shona marriage customs, however i felt a fellow blogger @makupsy has already done justice on the subject. 



Roora (Lobola/Dowry)


A man marrying a woman from the Shona culture has to observe the roora. This is a sign or show of love and affection when a man saves up and marries his beloved. There are many ways this can be done but I will dwell on the general procedures followed on the following condition  The man has done all the other necessities e.g. proposing (not musengabere, kutizisa), formal Introductions (dated for over 6 months) and more importantly girl is not pregnant (damage) or previously been married (virgin?).  In Zimbabwe, roora takes place in a number of stages and each stage has its own traditions and small amounts to pay. The process can differ from place to place due to the fact that in the Shona culture there are 12 different ethnic groups.

Stage One – Introduction

This stage involves the ‘munyayi’ who is a…

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Shona People and Their Spirituality

Shona people have always believed in God whom they called Mwari  or Musikavanhu. They also believed that Musikavanhu is so great that no mere living human being can have direct access to him. The intermediates between Mwari and people have been known as vadzimu or mudzimu (singular).

   Vadzimu is a spiritual community believed to exist parallel to the world of the living.    When a Shona adult person who had a family of his own dies, his/her spirit is believed to wander until it is invited back “home” in a ritual called kurova guva. Once the kurova guva ceremony has been performed the spirit of the dead person joins vadzimu.

 Vadzimu are responsible for guidance and protection of the living family. They can orchestrate luck, great harvests, abundant rains among other beneficial things.When they went out to hunt or one of the family members leaves home The Shona people would seek guidance and protection from Vadzimu by pouring home-brewed beer to the ground.

  The most powerful mudzimu spirits are known as Mhondoro. These are responsible for the protection of the Shona people as a tribe.

Mbuya Nehanda
Mbuya Nehanda

They manifest in a chosen individual through possession. The individual becomes sacred and powerful enough to be a rainmaker. Mbuya Nehanda, the Heroine behind the Zimbabwean liberation struggle was a mhondoro.


 Mashavi are wandering spirits, often of strangers who died away from their homes and were never invited back home. Mashavi can possess people in a biblical legionic manner causing a person to take on the traits of the shavi . Not all mashavi will bring out morally detestable behaviour such as witchcraft, prostitution or thieving. Some mashavi though regarded as evil can impart good talents such as hunting.

 The Shona people also believe in Ngozi. This a vengeful spirit oten of a stranger who was murdered or died full of unresolved grudges.Ngozi from unresolved grudges often is of a wife or mother who died full of anger. Ngozi destroys everything associated with the killer or the one whom it holds a grudge. It can kill their family members and destroy all their property.

 The family being haunted by Ngozi must visit a spirit medium to identify the source of its grudge. They must go and confess to the family of the victim who will often require a token in order to perform the appeasement ritual for their murdered relative. The token can be cattle or in certain circumstances the victim through the spirit medium can demand that a girl child be part of the token.

 The Chiefs were responsible for making sure that people followed customs. Modern day Zimbabwe has been overwhelmingly taken over by Christianity. Shona beliefs were to some extent suffocated by colonialism since Europeans demonized everything to do with them. Today only a few people , mostly found in rural areas still revere these beliefs.




Shona – The People

This is the first part in a series of posts I am going to do on The Shona people. In the coming days and weeks I shall introduce you to their sociopolitical and economic lifestyle.I seek to celebrate my roots and appreciate how much we have evolved into what we are today.

Shona people are found in Zimbabwe and some parts of Mozambique and Botswana. They speak a language which is also called Shona.

Shona as a language is part of the Bantu languages. It has many dialects the major ones being karanga,kore kore, zezuru,ndau and manyika. Almost, if not all Shona words end with a vowel. 

Not much certainty can be placed on the origin of the name Shona itself. Some attribute it to the Ndebele a Nguni tribe that later entered Zimbabwe during the mfecane wars. Some scholars believe the name Shona is derived from the Punjab word Sohna meaning gold. Indians are believed to have sought gold from the Shona.

Between the 11th and 15th century the Shona set up their kingdom on top of the Zimbabwe plateau. There they built marvelous stone walls later to be known as the Great Zimbabwe

Great Zimbabwe Ruins

Great Zimbabwe stone works were laid out without mortar much to the awe of early European colonisers who refused to believe that mere Africans could have constructed such a wonder. They attributed the construction of these great walls to foreigners.

The country of Zimbabwe derives its name from these stone works. Great Zimbabwe ruins has since been honoured as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Shona people are renowned for their stone carvings and mbira music which I shall touch on in future articles.

In my next article we shall look at their spiritual beliefs.


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