Tony Perman, director

MUS 101-20

The Mbira Ensemble plays on the commencement stage on central campus. There is a lens flare over the audience as the sun passes through the clouds over ARH.

The mbira in Zimbabwe is a deeply spiritual, socially engaging, and creatively challenging musical instrument that connects performers with the people around them, centuries of oral learning and performance, and the spirits for whom it is played. At Grinnell, students learn how to play this centuries-old instrument by ear and learn to play with one another. As skills and interests permit, we will also sing and play the hosho gourd rattles that always accompany performance. Also called mbira dzavadzimu (of the ancestors), the mbira is a handheld instrument with metal keys played with the thumbs and right index finger played in the Shona community of Zimbabwe. Emerging from centuries of performance and religious history, this is a participatory instrument and is rarely played solo, thus the rewards of collective music-making are emphasized. The mbira repertoire is a rich body of songs dedicated to the ancestral spirits for whom they are played. Learning to play the mbira with others can be a rewarding musical and social experience that will hopefully last longer than your College career.