Many Zimbabweans identify mbira as one true Zimbabwean musical instrument. In the past, music coming out of this instrument has been classified as Zimbabwean. But is it still a popular instrument today?  Fred Zindi tries to traces this question in a recent article in The Herald.

Zimbabwe’s traditional musical instruments such as chigufe, mbira, hosho, hwamanda and chipendani have been, according to modern scientists, traced back to the 14th century.

An ancient musical instrument, the mbira, used by the Shona people has had an important function in the development of Zimbabwean culture for hundreds of years. But why is it that certain sections of Zimbabwe’s society shun the mbira today?

With influence from Western countries such as Britain and the United States of America in the early 19th century, Zimbabweans began to dump their traditional instruments and replaced them with Western instruments such as the guitar, the banjo, the harmonica and accordion.

In urban centres, those who continued to play the mbira, chipendani, chigufe or the hwamanda were now perceived as primitive by those who believed that it is only things coming from the West that would make one more acceptable, more respectable, more modern and more fashionable.

To a large extent even the traditional drums (ngoma) were replaced by modern Western drum kits with cymbals.

Thus in the 1950s, the death knell had been sounded for traditional Zimbabwean instruments which include mbira.

However, the 1950s saw the beginning of a change in the consciousness of the then Rhodesia.

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