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Ephat Mujuru


It is hard to imagine that such diverse sounds and complex harmonies can come from an instrument that seems so simple -- nothing more than metal strips attached to a wooden box. Ephat Mujuru is the conjurer who plays the traditional thumb piano, or "mbira," of the Shona people of Zimbabwe. Weaving together cyclical patterns with constantly changing permutations, Mujuru creates a hypnotic effect with vocals that alternate between hummed and half-hollered. His grandfather, a spirit medium, taught him to play this instrument and the songs that call the ancestors. After Zimbabwean independence, he worked with the National Dance Company and later was the first African to teach music at the Zimbabwe College of Music. Recording several records with his "mbira" ensemble, Spirit of the People, Mujuru set a new standard for the instrument. Not surprisingly, he also plays traditional drums and percussion.

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