Monday, August 15, 2011

Zimbabwean Music Festival

Florian and I just returned from an incredible four days in Oregon for the Zimbabwean Music Festival or Zimfest, the largest annual North American celebration of Zimbabwean music and culture. 

Four days of breathtaking ocean vistas, 

gorgeous mossy mysterious campsites, happy swimming wagging Oregon dogs, and music. 

Zimfest is a like a big family reunion for everyone who plays, studies, or just loves the traditional music of Zimbabwe. For many, the most salient and accessible feature of Zimbabwean music is the marimba, a large xylophone-like instrument.

But much of the marimba repertoire is based on the mbira, a three-octave lamellophone played with the thumbs and the right index finger to produce extraordinarily complex, cyclical music that is used in Zimbabwe to communicate with ancestral spirits. 

I have played the mbira since 1996 when I lived in Taos and studied dance with Rujeko Dumbutshena, an accomplished dancer from Zimbabwe. 

In attendance were Tendai Muparutsa, Forward Kwenda, James Mujuru, Mbira DzeMunhinga, and other Zimbabwean masters who performed their versions of traditional songs and reminded us of the potential of this music to transform. 

Since moving to the East Coast, music has been much less a part of my life than when I lived in Portland or Santa Fe. It is starting to pick up, with weekly open mic performances in Takoma Park. 

Now if we could just get one of these incredible Zimbabwean musicians to move here!


  1. I went there a few years ago. Thanks for the memories.

  2. Did you really? That's so cool! In my experience, mbira players are a mellow bunch..and it was great that this Zimfest was so dog-friendly:)


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