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Zimbabwean Culture

The music and dance of Zimbabwe is very unique and energetic. The songs and dances tell stories while teaching important life lessons. For example in the welcoming dance, the dancers will carry a hari (clay pot) full of water on their heads to present to the guests. Traditionally, guests are welcomed into a home with a glass of water, since they may have traveled a long way to visit. The water symbolizes the cycle of life, from birth to death. It also brings people together because water is important for everyone. Another example is the planting dance. In this dance, the women carry baskets full of seeds to represent planting, while they pray for rain to help the crops grow. While this dance can literally be about planting seeds and caring for them until harvest, it can also teach people that when they plant an idea or goal, they must constantly tend that goal and put in the work to help it come to fruition.

The instruments played at the centre are mbira, ngoma (drums), marimbas, and hosho (rattles). The dancers wear magavhu (leg rattles), so that they become part of the music by creating polyrhythms with their feet. The music is meant to be shared and audience members are encouraged to participate.

Below you can learn more about the elements found in the traditional music and dance of Zimbabwe:

MBIRA
A musical instrument that is made of a wooden board with pounded metal keys attached.  It is often used with a resonator made of a dried, hollowed gourd, and sometimes made out of plastic for durability. The mbira sounds like rainfall or a waterfall, and can take people to a relaxed and meditative state.

NGOMA

Drums made of a hollowed log covered by cow skin. They are the heartbeat of the music and dance.

MARIMBAS

Zimbabwean marimbas are normally played in an ensemble consisting of one or more soprano (high range), tenor (medium range), and baritone and/or bass (low range) instruments. The marimba melodies and rhythms carry all of the other instruments within them.

HOSHO
Rattles made of gourds that have been hollowed out, dried, and filled with hard seeds from the Hota plant (Canna or Canna lilly). Hosho bring light and balance between the music and dancers.

MAGAVHU
Leg rattles that are that are traditionally made out of gourds and filled with Hota seeds, like Hosho, but are often now made out of plastic for durability. As the dancers stomp out rhythms, the magavhu help carry the energy of the prayer.


HARI
Clay pot for carrying water and holding traditional beer during ceremonies. Water is the source of life and is a symbol of unity. When water or traditional beer are shared, they bring people together. 


FABRIC & DRESS

The colors of the fabrics have power and symbolism. Green represents crops, grass and nature. Yellow represents minerals, gold and the sun. Red represents the blood of those who left us, life, fire and energy. Black represents the people, as well as peace and light that can come out of a fear of the dark. White represents purity and cleansing. Blue represents the sky, clarity, and all the creatures that fly. Brown represents the earth, the creatures that walk on the earth and harvest time.

rhythms carry all of the other instruments within them.