Ephat Mujuru

Ephat Mujuru was one of the few traditional musicians to use his music to speak out against the oppressive colonization of Zimbabwe. His politically charged tune "Guruswa" (translated: Ancient Africa) was a massive hit in his homeland during the 1970s. In a interview, Mujuru explained, "[the song] was talking about our struggle to free ourselves." A master of the mbira, a xylophone-like instrument, Mujuru was taught to play the instrument by his grandfather, Muchatera Mujuru, at the age of seven. Within three years, he was playing well enough to perform at his first possession ceremony. By the age of 14, he had formed a band, Chaminuka, and had begun touring throughout Southern Africa. The group was renamed Spirit of the People following Zimbabwe's gaining independence in 1980. The following year, Mujuru and the group released their debut album. Mujuru continued to make his presence felt. In addition to helping to found the National Dance Company of Zimbabwe, he became the first African music teacher at the Zimbabwean College of Music. After he traveled to the United States to continue his education at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1982, Mujuru continued to periodically lecture and teach mbira and marimba at the school. Mujuru also taught at several schools on the East Coast. Although he played all five kinds of mbira, he mainly focused on the mbira dzavadzimu, an instrument with 22 iron prongs arranged in three register banks that he claimed represented "the voice of the children, voice of the adults, and voice of the elders." Mujuru joined with Zimbabwe-born and United States-based mbira player Dumisani Maraire to record an album, Shona Spirit. In a review of the album, Roots World claimed, "this is real purity here: just two men with thumb pianos, shakers, and voices, with no clever tricks or star-studded overdubs." Mjuru collaborated with the Kronos Quartet on their 1992 album, Pieces of Africa. He died in London, England in 2001. ~ Craig Harris

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