Soundtrack: Tapiwa Zivira

Harare’s Eaglesvale Junior School last week, hosted an impressive arts and culture fete themed Proudly Zimbabwean, where pupils came dressed in cultural attires worn by local tribes such as the Manyika, VaKaranga, VaHera, AmaNdebele, MaNdau, MaZezuru, and BaTonga.

The children also presented various cultural customs, but to cap it all was the music performances that spoke to culture and heritage.

Zvido Zvevanhu Dance Group’s Sithabile Mahubaba and the pupils showcased various music and dance acts with mbira and hosho, as in the nature of our cultures.

The event did not escape notice from the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ).

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NACZ’s Harare provincial arts manager, William Ndinde praised the school for using arts to promote local culture.

The presence of the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, the umbrella body governing the local arts industry proved just how arts are a critical component of the education of the child, as they help infuse our culture and its dynamism into children who are growing up in this digital age, where they are exposed to many cultures of the world through the now easily accessible digital media.

Traditional music and dances, like many other cultural practices are under siege from new and urbanised beliefs, and the fete held by Eaglesvale is one example of how our culture can be effectively presented in its completeness, with music and dance taking centre stage.

This is because music is a powerful tool of expression and as part of our culture, when people gather for celebrations, mourning or rituals, music and dance are more like a soundtrack to evoke the desired atmosphere.

More importantly, schools — which are a major socialisation platform that shape the nature and calibre of any child — can with no doubt, play a significant role in grooming children into adults that are conscious of our arts and culture; adults that will pass on this heritage to future generations.

Mbira music, the dances and cultural attires associated with it are generally seen in the light of traditional spiritual rituals, and the majority of the Christian Zimbabweans speak of it as something linked to what they call the dark world, a trend which leads many to shun the music.

It will take our education system to correct such myths and distortions, and to make the future generations understand that mbira music and traditional dances play an important role in preserving the many good aspects of our culture.

Which is why, while the new educational curriculum has its problems, one of the major improvements is the mainstreaming of culture and music, with emphasis on local tradition.

There is a generation that did not get this grooming.

My generation was groomed to believe in some of the myths associated with mbira music, and we ended up loving rap music from America and dancehall from Jamaica, and seeing the few mbira artistes as “vanhu vemashave” and it had to take innovators such as Thomas Mapfumo at the time, to infuse mbira, hosho and the traditional drum into otherwise contemporary instrumentation to get the wide acceptance.

Of late, we have had many young artistes adding mbira to their contemporary beats, with key examples being Jah Prayzah, Mbeu, Maestro we Mhanda, Hope Masike, the late Chiwoniso Maraire and Diana Samkange.

This, complemented by the new curriculum’s emphasis on arts and culture, is a step in the right direction and while it may appear too unrealistic right now, it has a great influence on the socialisation of our children in the future.