The prime piece that set Mukhambira afire!

In 1995 I was given a mbira by Dr. Dumisani Maraire, who was my lecturer at the Zimbabwe College of Music. It was a homework for me, to reseach on that instrument, which reached his hands as a"Shangani Mbira". Knowing that I was a Shangani boy, Mariaire asked me whether I knew that type of mbira. But, unfortunately, even after my extensive fieldwork in Mozambique, I had not come across such a mbira -Mbira culture was almost extinct in Mozambique! However, the homework was set, whose results only came later.

Ten years later, when I started to reseach on mbira building, in 2005, this mbira fell in the pool of my raw materials for experimental endeavour. In fact, it was for me raw! I, then, remoned its original keys, whose musicology I c had not figured out; cut some circular shapes on the board, to give it my character, and fitted new keys, made from stripes cut out of a steel  sheet with a hand grinder, in a mbira dzavadzimu format. few keys were close to the desired pitches, but most were descrepant.

Conducting analogical/comparative experiments with xylophone key tuning procedure, of redistributing mass -shifting/adding/removing- through the key's length to alter its acoustical behavious, I figured how to raise and drop the frequency of the key without changing its length or width -that was the tuning formula that became to be used by most mbira makers in Maputo.

Xizambi in New-Contemporary Contexts

Mukhambira's Research Philosophy (With Portuguese translation below)

For us, Mukhambira, in research there is no room for bureaucratism or elitism, be they financial, intellectual, cultural; nor of "finery", nor of any kind of complication to the process of construction and validation of knowledge. But rather a space of consciesness, ethics, and passion for work; commitment and performance, sensitivity, and humility. After all we investigate due to  the awareness that we do not, and, can't know everything we want to know. So we must have all the esteem for those who transmit to us the knowledge we need and for the process through which they transmitted it to us.

We cannot underestimate the peasant, simply because he is a peasant, while we need maize from him to make our meal! Pretending we know more just because we sit at our desk memorising lessons is a fatal mistake. Thinking we are better than we really are, and/or than our source of knowledge is an arrogance inherent in ignorance, counterproductive, and perverse to the spirit of enquiry -it blocks our learning! Let us remember that whether they (our sources) are "literate" as it's often said, or "illiterate", knowledge is not just the alphabet.  In fact, alphabet can be devoid of any knowlewdge or meaning. It  can be empty!

We approach our knowledge sources because they have the knowledge that we need. The alphabet is not knowledge as such. It is only a means, one of the ways of recording/storing information, including knowledge, and the very first and most reliable storage of knowledge is our memery. The alphabet is not intelligence, nor does it know what it represents. It is only mechanised and used, that is, used in a mechanical way.

Knowledge, therefore, is that understanding of facts acquired through learning or experience. It is processed by human intelligence. The alphabet is memorised and does not require so much rationality. It arose out of the need to record information and knowledge, aiding our memory. Hence, a correct hierarchy would place knowledge first and higher, and then alphabet. Not knowing alphabet does not mean not knowing/understanding things, facts, phenomena, etc. Those who do not know the alphabet have other ways of recording/storing their ideas, experiences and knowledge. In fact, they do a better exercise of memory, which keeps it fit! Taking music as an example, we will find great musicians who don't know what the C of western musical theory is, but who know the sound of that same C and its acoustic and pragmatic peculiarities; and, who don't even know the alphabet, but who make admirable music, for some, and enviable for others.

Filosofía de Investigação da Mukhambira

Para nós, Mukhambira, na investigação não há espaço para burocratismo nem elitismo, quer sejam eles financeiros, intelectual, cultural; nem de "finórias", e, nem de qualquer tipo de complicação ao processo de construção e validação do conhecimento. Mas sim um espaço de consciência, ética, e paixão pelo trabalho; empenho e desempenho, sensibilidade, e acima de tudo, de humildade. Afinal investigamos pela consciência de que não sabemos, e nunca saberemos tudo o que queremos saber. Então temos que ter toda a estima pelos que nos transmitem os conhecimento que precisamos e pelo processo através do qual estes nos são transmitidos.

Não podemos menosprezar o camponês, simplesmente porque ele é camponês, enquanto dele precisamos do milho para fazermos a nossa refeição! Fingir que sabemos mais só porque sentamos na carteira memorizando lições é um erro fatal. Pensar que somos melhores do que realmente somos, e/ou do que a nossa fonte de conhecimentos é uma arrogância inerente a ignorância, contraproductiava/contraproducente, e perversa ao espírito de investigação.

Lembremo-nos que, sejam elas (as nossas fontes) "alfabetizadas" como se tem dito, ou "analfabetizadas", o conhecimento não se resume em alfabeto. Nós nos aproximamo-las porque elas tem o conhecimento que precisamos. O alfabeto não é o conhecimento. Ele é apenas um meio, uma das forma de registo/armazenamento de informação, incluindo conhecimento. O alfabeto não é inteligência, e nem sabe o que representa.  Ele é apenas mecanizado e usado, isto é, usado de forma mecânica. O conhecimento, por sua vez, é aquela compreensão dos factos adquirida através de aprendizagem ou experiência. Ele, é, portanto processado pela inteligência humana. O alfabeto é memorizado e não precisa de tanta racionalidade. Ele surgiu pela necessidade de se registar a informação e o conhecimento. Daí, na hierarquia correcta, primeiro é o conhecimento, e depois o alfabeto. Não conhecer alfabeto não significa não conhecer o conhecimento. Quem não conhece o alfabeto tem outras formas de registar/armazenar as suas ideias, as experiencias, e os conhecimentos. Temos no exemplo da música, grandes músicos que não sabem o que é o Dó da teoria ocidental, mas que conhecem o Dó e as suas peculiaridades acústicas e na pragmáticas; e, que nem o alfabeto conhecem, mas que fazem música admirável para alguns, e invejável para outros.


One place that has been always so special for retreat, inspiration, and creation, is Mukhambira in Marakweni, which regularly hosts important  brainstorming "Roots Music" practitioners, including those organized by the Festival Raiz, and a Nkaringani-wa-nkaringani, the later, a traditional around-the-fire story telling event; and lately, the Mozambican Minister of Culture, Eldevina Materula, on October 1 2020, who wanted to understand the processes taking place in Mukhambira in-loco.

The two tree in the picture are very important in for the communities. The fist one,  Ndzhiva in Tsonga languages, provides shade, food, firewood, and wood for xizambi bow; The second, Nsala provides food, raw materials for timbila and other xylophones' resonators; for xigoviya (a traditional round fruit); shells for rattles; ornament objects; etc. 

The big tree, Ndzhiva in Tsonga languages, provides shade, food, firewood, and wood for xizambi bow.

Although its seeds could be traced back to 1991, the name Mukhambira came first in 2005, coined by my son, Elia Mukhavele, who combined the words Mukhavele, our family name, and Mbira, our then focus instrument in the project.

Not to leave behind, is the valuable support of my wife, Birgit Plank Mucavele, who believed in Mukhambira, and so gave her contribution from the projects beginnings.

At the beginning the project comprised two member, namely: Luka Mukhavele, as the leader; Ivan Mucavele, as the research assistant.Then next, Pedro Justino, Betinho (Nyarira), and Cremildo, joined in, and then  Ozias Macoo, as apprentices and research assistants. Thereafter, many other followers adhered, direct and/or indirectly. Two years later, nearly each one of these disciples had already become  independent mbira builders, with their own workshops where they trained others.

Mukhambira was Luka's response to the already alarming levels of local music, and in general, local culture trivialization, which has been  for centuries impacting negatively on the cultural heritage of the indigenous peoples. 

Tribal music does exist, ethnic music still exists also, and they are both grounded on the soil. However, unfortunately, in most cases national music is still a construct; a dream in Africa!

"Many so called independent African Nations still, proudly, generate their national anthems from Western hymnody!"  

If "Africans Nations" cannot generate their national anthems from their own musical heritage, then those "African Nations" are off track! They are fictitious, utopic!  And, that is the reason why we still fight tribal wars, instead of fighting natural disasters, pandemics, and poverty. We need to get to track, if we want to build our Nations. First let's build the people -their morals and ethics; their consciousness; their self-esteem; and, their pride, through the revigoration of local culture, and they will build the rest. It is not the polititions who build the nation! It is the people, and in that process Music plays a very central role. It does it all in one!

In music we can find the essence of our oneness and humanness, which predates and supersedes our separation for colonial purposes; and the oneness before and beyond the ratialization of Mankind king. 

Music is the Most Human of all Activities, that can Unify Humanity!