Guruve Marimba Arts Ensemble

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CHAPTER 3 MARIMBA ENSEMBLES IN CONTEMPORARY ZIMBABWE

INTRODUCTION

The ensembles musicking on the Zimbabwe marimba in contemporary Zimbabwe come under the spotlight in this chapter. There is currently considerable activity within Zimbabwe’s borders and I interacted with many marimba bands during my fieldwork. All these ensembles in Zimbabwe performed marimba music purely for entertainment purposes. It is notable that the number of active marimba bands in Zimbabwe currently is smaller compared to the number of bands that are performing music on the Zimbabwe marimba in the United States of America alone. There are currently slightly more than forty marimba ensembles in Zimbabwe. There are various reasons for this situation and all of them hinge on the affordability of a set of six marimbas for the groups concerned.
In the first part of this chapter, I present the community-based marimba ensembles that I discovered scattered around the country, especially in the big cities and towns. These marimba ensembles operate in Harare (Tambarimba Ensemble, Timbila Vibes Ensemble, Tariro/Hope Ensemble, CHIPAWO, Blackspear, Sailors Crew, Pamuzinda, Dzorira Mbira & Marimba Band, Yotinhira Arts Ensemble, Kutinya Marimba Ensemble), Bulawayo (Rainbow Blaze Marimba Band, Hloseni Arts Ensemble), Victoria Falls (The Big Five Marimba Band, Sinsiska Marimba Band, Guruve (Guruve Marimba Arts Ensemble), and Gokwe (Gokwe Rovarimba Ensemble). Of these ensembles, two perform live music shows at venues where marimba music lovers can pay to watch them (Tambarimba and Rainbow Blaze). The Victoria Falls-based Sinsiska and The Big Five marimba bands play music to entertain tourists who come to view one the Seven Wonders of the World. The tourists pay them of their own accord when they get enough amusement from the performances.
Some marimba bands are based in music colleges, teachers’ colleges, polytechnic colleges, and universities. These I discuss in the second part of this chapter. Of these college-based marimba ensembles, three are doing extensive marimba performances even outside college premises. The MSU-based Rimba Resonance Vibes performs marimba music at academic conferences, seminars and community ceremonies. The ZCM-based Timbila Vibes has taken Zimbabwe marimba music across the borders to South Africa, where they have repeatedly won prizes at music competitions. In Harare, they share the stage with local artists such as Leonard Zhakata, and marimba music lovers pay to watch their live shows. The Mkoba Teachers College-based Marimba Ensemble also featured at the 2015 Tambarimba festival. There are also marimba bands at Mutare, Hillside, Gwanda, Madziwa, Nyadire, Marymount, Morgenster, Morgan ZINTEC, Masvingo, Bondolfi, Seke, Belvedere, and United College of Education Teachers colleges but I have only seen these at the TIFAZ and RIO-SET music competitions. The same goes for university-based marimba ensembles at UZ, HIT, ZOU, NUST, BUSE, WUA, AU, Lupane, Catholic University, and GZU, as well as polytechnic college-based ones at Masvingo, Mutare, Harare, Gweru, Kwekwe, and Bulawayo polytechnics.
Additionally, non-governmental organisations are working towards promoting Zimbabwean musical cultural traditions. I discuss these in the third section of this chapter. During my fieldwork, I interacted with two non-governmental organisations that are including marimba music performance practice as part of their community engagement programs. One of them is Tariro/Hope Trust, the brainchild of an American music scholar called Jennifer Kyker. The other one is the Children’s Performing Arts Workshop (CHIPAWO), which was started by Dr Robert McLaren, Farai Gezi and Steven Chifunyise. Both are based in Harare and have a common mission to improve the lives of disadvantaged youth through participating in the performing arts.
In the fourth section of this chapter, I discuss marimba performers who play marimba in popular bands and mix them with electric guitars and percussion instruments. Charles Chipanga, who played marimba in Oliver Mutukudzi’s Black Spirits Band, is a marimba performer who now plays marimba in his own band, Charlenam Rhythms. Blessing Bled Chimanga also plays marimba music for Zimboita, a band that is made up of Zimbabweans and Italians who are mixing music from the two cultures to come up with their own unique blend of music.
In the final section, I discuss the challenges that marimba performers who are currently based in Zimbabwe face and present some of their views on how they think these challenges can be overcome. These challenges are mainly linked to economic factors such as the affordability of marimbas, lack of opportunities, and inaccessibility of resources.

COMMUNITY-BASED MARIMBA GROUPS

Blackspear

Blackspear is a seven-member traditional music band based in Harare’s Mabvuku high-density suburb. The band’s manager, Taurai Zhuwao (Personal communication, 11 March 2016), says that Blackspear incorporates marimba and mbira music, which they call “Marimbira music”. Their promoters are Hanics Investments and the band’s aim is to spread traditional Zimbabwean music to many people. Kabao Naison Mantimba is Blackspear’s lead vocalist. The band was formed more than ten years ago and they blend marimba, mbira, drums and keyboards in their music.
Blackspear took part in the 2005 International Music Festival in Malawi, where they came third. They also entertain people at various functions such as weddings, live show performances and corporate functions. In 2015, the band featured at the Tambarimba Festival in Harare and came seventh out of seven bands. In 2016, the band started featuring at Gijima Sports Bar in Harare City, which hosts traditional music artists.

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Dzorira Mbira and Marimba Band

Dzorira Mbira and Marimba Band started in 2014 when Peace Chinake and Theophilus Chinembiri left Tavarura Mbira Group, which only played mbira music, to form their own band that mixes mbira and marimba. They were encouraged by Admire Chinake, a marimba maker and Peace’s brother, when they were exposed to the marimba instruments in his workshop. The two developed a passion for marimba music from a tender age and decided to team up with their schoolmates to start a marimba band in Highfield suburb. The other Dzorira Mbira and Marimba Band members are Paul Urayayi, who plays marimba, Easter Chimbodza and Thomas Mhizha, who are dancers, and vocalists Kuda and Stanley Nemangwe. Peace and Theophilus play the marimbas. Dzorira Mbira and Marimba Band plays contemporary reggae, Afro-jazz, jit, gospel, and sungura music.
Dzorira Mbira and Marimba Band perform mostly free shows at Mushandirapamwe Night Club, in beer halls in Highfield, and at the Harare Gardens. According to Peace Chinake (Personal communication, 15 March 2016), they conduct voluntary shows in a bid to popularise marimba music, and in a bid to market themselves to the public. He added that the band is now overwhelmed by demand from the public for their music. The band has recorded an album entitled “All genres in one”, which has six songs (Mwari mune hanya nesu, Nyasha dzenyu, Hello mum, Ndauya mutadzi mukuru, and Kuteerera). They are working on a second album. The band has serious economic challenges and members currently operate with no form of remuneration.

Guruve Marimba Arts Ensemble

Guruve Marimba Arts Ensemble is a group based in the small town of Guruve in Mashonaland Central Province. The band has been active on the entertainment scene for quite some time now. Guruve Marimba Arts Ensemble showcases folk and contemporary music and dance. It was established in 2006 with the aim of developing musical arts education and offering musical arts entertainment in the community. One of the Guruve Marimba Arts Ensemble’s objectives is to preserve marimba music through cultural exchange programs. The group comprises 31 members who possess various skills in the musical arts. Some of their shows feature ngoma (drums) played together with the marimba. Guruve Marimba Arts Ensemble has received a number of prizes, such as coming second in the Young Africa 2010 competition. They came first at the National Folk Dance competition in 2010 and 2013. They also took part in the 2015 International Festival for Drums and Traditional Arts in Cairo, Egypt.
In 2010, they participated in the Buddies Annual Festival of Arts (BAFA) at the Harare Gardens and won both the Provincial and National Chibuku Neshamwari Traditional Dance Festival, which is sponsored by Delta Beverages. In 2012, they featured at the launch of Oliver Mtukudzi’s musical “Masanga Bodo”, which premiered at the Seven Arts Theatre in Avondale, Harare, alongside several other artists. In 2014, they featured as one of the groups providing entertainment at the Zimbabwe Music Festival Bira (Zimfebi) that was held at Chatiza Village in Guruve, where they thrilled music fans alongside international and local artists. In 2015, they competed in the Tambarimba Festival held at the Harare Gardens and came fourth. Guruve Marimba Arts Ensemble was one of the groups entertaining people at a ZANU (PF) rally in 2016 at Nzvimbo Growth Point in Chiweshe.

Hloseni Arts and Culture Marimba Ensemble

Hloseni Arts and Culture Marimba Ensemble was formed in 1998 at Vulindlela Youth Centre in Bulawayo’s Mpopoma high-density suburb. The ensemble is made up of ten members who dance energetically. Hloseni Arts and Culture Marimba Ensemble is one of the marimba bands in contemporary Zimbabwe, with four national Arts Merit Awards. In 2012 they performed at the Durban Music Festival. They also perform regularly at the Plumtree Bakalanga Annual Cultural Festival. Kundai Hove is the person who organises events for Hloseni Arts and Culture Ensemble.

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MUSICKING AT HOME ON THE WOOD THAT SINGS: CONTEMPORARY MARIMBA PERFORMANCE PRACTICES IN ZIMBABWE

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