Mahoso revives ancient music instrument

HARARE – An academic honed at a university in the United States of America is the last person you would expect to be at the forefront of reviving an ancient Ndau music instrument called Chimatende which was on the verge of extinction.

But that is exactly what Tafataona Mahoso is doing.  He has set up a company called Samawasika Heritage Products based at his farm in Mutasa District in Manicaland to manufacture the music instrument once prevalent in Ndau-speaking areas.

The rare music instrument, interchangeably known as Chinyamatende, Chidandari or Chimadandari, is made up of a squash calabash (dende or deze) attached to a bow by a tuning wire.

According to Mahoso, the Zimbabwe Media Commission chief executive officer, the extinction of Chimatende was largely a result of the colonial set-up.

“It had become extinct because, unlike the mbira, it was dominated by young men who later emigrated from the area (Ndau-speaking) under the influence of colonial forced labour, missionary conversion and labour migrations to South Africa,” Mahoso said adding:

“The Ndau areas were far away from Harare (Salisbury) where radio picked up and promoted the mbira.”

Mahoso’s company is currently making the Chimatende instrument in three sizes.

“The munin’ina/muushi/walkman is the smallest size, the portable size which can be played while walking outside or herding cattle or goats.

“Mukoma is the medium size which can be carried around and played from hut to hut or village.

“Samukuru or resident is the largest size meant for the young man’s gota (bachelor pad). It is recommended for use in chamber music or institutional music in one place such as the music school auditorium or studio,” he said.

Thanks to Mahoso’s efforts, the Chimatende music instrument is already claiming its space on Zimbabwe’s music scene.

“Chimatende is the instrument of the moment. Its debut concert appearance was at the 2016 Mbira Festival held at Prince Edward School on September 24,” said the veteran media regulator.

He believes the Chimatende has what it takes to be more widely adopted by artistes.

“As an instrument, it is versatile...playing more than four notes from only one wire divided into can be played alone or with ngoma, hosho,magavhu and marimba.

“Chimatende is unique not only for its music, which integrates percussion and string features in one instrument but also for its aesthetic and philosophical significance as a bow and arrow converted through the gourd (calabash) to throw waves of music sound in the place of arrows,” Mahoso said.

Mahoso wants to see the land reform exercise being accompanied by a robust reclamation of the country’s cultural heritage.

“The movement to reclaim and redeem the soil has led to the movement to reclaim and redeem the cultural heritage based on the land...wood for the bow comes from Mahoso Farm...the gourds come from Gokwe,” he told the Daily News on Sunday.

Mahoso, though, is not the only prominent Zimbabwean academic who has been stung by the arts bug. We also have Gibson Mandishona, a leading research scientist and mathematician who was a guitarist for many jazz bands several decades ago.

Before independence, he worked for the United Nations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where he led a 10-piece band made up of officials from different African countries.

This group also featured another Zimbabwean academic and former Finance minister Herbert Murerwa, who has a passion for jazz music and played drums.

This list of academics with a passion for the arts would be incomplete without Higher and Tertiary  Education minister Jonathan Moyo. Last year, Moyo revealed on his Twitter page that he took song-writing and guitar-playing courses at the University of Southern California between 1978 and 80.

The minister was the architect of non-stop jingles on State television and radio in support of the land reform. Moyo, who claims he has over a 100 unreleased songs, was the founder of the now-defunct Pax Afro; an Afro-jazz outfit which released hits such as Let it Play.

Comments (1)


WATTSAM JASSY - 28 September 2017

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