Nine Ancient Sounds

The Mbira Instrument Narrative

The Story of a People

Mbira is a musical instrument whose history is inseparable and deeply encrypted in the history of Afrikans particularly those in the modern day Zimbabwe. This instrument and the music itself present the very narrative of who we are and where we came from as a people.

By researching on the original tunes of the Mbira instrument and music, one cannot help, but gain lots of appreciation of this instrument as a significant era-peg in the historical migration and identity of the modern day Zimbabwean, which again defines what we call “Hunhu”.

We have 9 Mbira Tunes that have come a very long way in our history, with the very first one having been made from a hardwood, back in Guruuswa 1, which was in the Persia region.

Mbira tunes in brief

Nhemamusasa Tune

../establishing homesteads/shelter.

Guruuswa 1 was all about building an organized society, a collective identity and self sustenance while at the same time scrambling for settling space. There were also many wars being fought to defend the collective and we were not many compared to the surrounding Arab and European groups. It was at this period that the collective led by Mbire the elder brother of Guruuswa who was also Mutapa 1’s father commissioned the making of the first Mbira instrument for the purpose communicating with the Creator with regards to his people’s plea to establishing a peaceful community, thus the Nhemamusasa Tune was established.


../from orora, meaning to triumph.

Mutapa had two sons, Madzudzo and Murenga. His uncle Guruuswa’s spirit was now manifesting and guiding his people through Madzudzo in all the advice that the people needed and all the wars which were being fought. With this guidance, and fighting experience the collective now had a very powerful army in which, all, including women and children were trained and armed to fight. One group after another of invaders came, causing lots of blood shed but they all fell at the hands of this well organized collective led by Murenga. It was after this great triumph that a tune for praise and pride was commissioned and that was the Mahororo Tune.


../was Chaminuka’s other name, so this tune is also known as “Bvunzai Chaminuka”, meaning, ask Chaminuka.

This was now in Guruuswa 2, which is in the Nubia area and Murenga had three children; Chaminuka and Mushavatu the two boys and Nehanda their sister. Chaminuka became the profoundest warrior of all time, with mystic powers such that for all victory in battles he had to be consulted. In his honor, the tune Chakwi/BvunzaiChaminuka, was commissioned.

Mavembe (ma-Vembe)

../Vembe is the name for all Afrikan languages collectively

The migration journey was still on course with the guidance of the spiritual powers, who at this point so it fit to differentiate the people because up until this time the black clan was just one. The oneness of the clan made it weak. It was then given that all the descendants of Chaminuka would have totems from the animal family and those of Mushavatu would have the water and sun family of totems. Thus rituals for these separations were done and allegiances were sworn. It was at this time that Vembe began to evolve into many dialects and languages. The tune Vembe (maVembe) was commissioned to recognize this point in history.

Bangiza (raitidzo)

../the revealer

As revealed by the Spirit, the collective exited Guruuswa 2, which was partially a desert to a much greener land– the Promised Land. Bangiza was then the tune that accompanied them on this journey.


../ Nya = proprietor,  Bango = corner pole.

Upon entering the Promised Land, unlike in Guruuswa 1, people through the spiritual guidance were given freedom and ownership of their own spaces. The joyousness gave birth to the tune Nyabango.


../ we fore warned..

Chaminuka had way back prophesied on most of the significant incidences that would follow including the exiting of Guruuswa 2 and the Promised Land. He had also fore told about what would happen in the promised land; people fighting between themselves, greed, selfishness, people losing their identity, people opting for moral values that were not their own, people denouncing their own culture and history, forsaking their own spirituality, forsaking Hunhu, assimilating into foreign cultures and traditions, forsaking even the Promised land itself.

So Taireva Tune was now a direct statement from the Ancestors.


../Respond now

Chipindura Tune is again a direct statement from the Ancestors, whereby they are challenging us as to where we stand now, whether we are still united, whether we still care for each other, what identity do we carry now, whether we are still holding on to their initial national aspirations.


../stay in there

This tune carries advice on what we should be; the Great Ancestors are saying, since you are one people, with the same Guardian Spirits, identity, race, history and understanding the same light you should stay united, your power is in your unity.

Where there is no unity there is no light, a people losing sight of their own history are bound to lose respect from those who know their own and they will consequently get lost. Stay together in unity. One who strays from the rest will surely perish. The song that goes with this tune is ‘imbwa yangu yaendayega’(my dog gone astray)

This is one of Dzimbanhete Arts Interactions’ research papers, with inspiration from Mr. Garikayi Tirikoti whose dream was purely musical, we at DAI have gone deeper bringing out the historical relevance and we endeavor to continue digging, now with an intend to see how Mbira music in Zimbabwe relates to that of other countries both in the east and so as the south.

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