Ephat Mujuru

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Ephat Mujuru
Ephat Mujuru.jpg
Ephat Mujuru
BornEphat Mujuru
1950
Makoni, Rusape, Zimbabwe
DiedOctober 5, 2001
London, UK
Cause of deathHeart Attack
Occupation
  • Musician

Ephat Mujuru was a Zimbabwean musician who was well known for playing the Mbira. Mujuru played all of Zimbabwe’s five types of mbira, but his specialty was the “mbira dzavadzimu”. He was the leader of the group the Spirit of the People. Mujuru died in 2001. His last commercial recording, released in 1998, is called Ancient Wisdom.


Background

Mujuru was born in 1950 and was raised in a small village in Makoni district, Rusape. He was taught to play the mbira by his grandfather, Muchatera Mujuru who was a spirit medium and a prophet who belonged to one of the most important ancestral spirits in Shona cosmology, Chaminuka.[1] At the time of this death Mujuru was married and had 10 children.

Career

At his Rhodesian-run Catholic school, young Mujuru’s teachers told him that to play mbira was a “sin against God”. This resulted in Muchatera withdrawing Mujuru and sending him to school in an African township outside the capital, Salisbury (present-day Harare).


In the big city, Mujuru hesitated before committing himself to the life of a musician. On leaving school, Mujuru worked in an accounting office. He was fired from the accounting office and in the late 1960s to early 1970s he had no job. He was 18.

In an interview later in his life, Mujuru said that there was a “silent voice” telling him that his hope lay in Mbira music. Following that voice, Mujuru began spending time in the village of Bandambira, where he studied with a mbira player called Bandambira. Mujuru then went to live and apprentice with another mbira player, Simon Mashoko.

In 1972, Mujuru formed his first group, Chaminuka, in partnership with another mbira player, Charles Mutwida. Mujuru managed to get national radio airplay for two political songs How can I cross the river? and Guruswa. He said the songs were about Zimbabwe's struggle for independence.

Mujuru played all of Zimbabwe’s five types of mbira, but his specialty was the “mbira dzavadzimu”. A mbira instrument can have from 15 to 50 iron prongs, the “mbira dzavadzimu” has 22, arranged in three register banks that Mujuru characterised as “voice of the children, voice of the adults, and voice of the elders”.

After Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, Mujuru renamed his group from Chaminuka to Spirit of the People. He recorded his first album in 1981 using only mbira, hand drums, hosho, and singers.

Mujuru first travelled outside of Africa in 1980 for teaching workshops sponsored by Temple University in Philadelphia. In 1982, he returned to the USA, performed in New York, DC and Boston, and began to teach mbira to groups and individuals [2]

Mujuru also helped to found the National Dance Company and became the first African music teacher to work at the Zimbabwe College of Music on the recommendation of Paul Berliner who had spent time understudying Mujuru and eventually wrote a book The Soul of Mbira. In 1982, at the invitation of Berliner, Mujuru went to the United States to study and, eventually, lecture and teach mbira at the University of Washington in Seattle. On his return to Zimbabwe in 1986, Mujuru became a schoolteacher at Mbare High School and also started live performances in nightclubs and small venues. He also gave mbira lessons mainly to foreign tourists at the Zimbabwe College of Music.

Throughout the 1980s, Mujuru travelled widely. In the US, he released an album of traditional hand drumming, Rhythms of Life, recorded in Boston in 1989, with a few mbira tracks added from an earlier vinyl released by the music label Lyrichord.

During the 1990s, Mujuru continued to travel and perform and in the US, he recorded two albums for the recording label Music of the World, namely; Ancient Wisdom and Shona Spirit which was a collaboration with Dumisani Maraire. [3] Mujuru also recorded a multi-track album he called Journey of the Spirit.

Back in Zimbabwe, Mujuru released his first electric album Hapana Mutorwa in 1992 which made its way to the top of the local charts, edging out Zimbabwe sungura kings, Leonard Dembo and John Chibadura. In early September 1992, the electric album, Musiyano, was released.[4]

Discography

  • Rhythms of Life
  • Ancient Wisdom (1998)
  • Shona Spirit
  • Journey of the Spirit
  • Hapana Mutorwa
  • Musiyano

Awards

He won a Pan-African Award in Ghana for his contribution in preserving African culture.[5]

Death

On October 5 2001, Mujuru died in London, while travelling with his cousins Fradreck and Sam. He was on his way to begin a residency at Grinnell College in Iowa. Mujuru suffered a massive heart attack that day on disembarking from an Air Zimbabwe plane after experiencing deep- vein thrombosis at Gatwick Airport and died on his way to hospital.[6]

References