The Sunday Mail
VIRIMAI “Vee Mhofu” Nhedega and the Dziva ReMbira traditional ensemble are on a mission to revive hardcore mbira music in urban areas, and they seem to be succeeding.
In recent times, rising pop culture seemed to have eased mbira music out of the spotlight.
Seasoned groups like Mbira Dzenharira, Mawungira Enharira, Zemba Nembira Dzetsokoto and Hwevambira that were once active in promoting the genre appear to have fizzled.
However, the youthful Dziva ReMbira group is hopeful.
Their effort is receiving the thumbs-up from across the generational divide.
Demand for the group’s services in a number of upmarket joints, including ordinary leisure centres, has steadily increased over the past months.
For instance, the group now has three permanent slots at venues like Red Café, Café Afrique situated at Cresta Oasis, and Legends Bar & Grill in the capital on Sunday, Saturday and Thursday, respectively.
Their exploits have also seen then perform at the Meikles Hotel, Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) and gracing various activities in the resort town of Victoria Falls as the headline act.
Bar Rouge, La Rouge, City Sports Bar, East Point (formerly Jazz 105) and Club Veritas, among others, are some of the venues they have also graced in recent times.
In an interview, Vee Mhofu, the group leader, said they were pulling out all the stops to make mbira music the in-thing once again.
“My mission is simple: I want to make sure the legacy of the mbira instrument lives on and that the genre becomes first choice for most, if not all, citizens in this country,” said the 33-year-old composer and mbira player.
“Initially, I thought the task would be difficult, but we are making strides. Our support is coming from all generations, meaning we are going in the right direction.”
The group recently released a single track titled “Mucheka Weretso” to whet the market’s appetite in preparation for their forthcoming album, whose working title is “Chiringazuva”.
The Monolio-produced track is so entrancing.
It is smooth flowing — capturing our traditional sound in a simple yet spellbinding way.
It is certainly an effort deserving attention.
“We have been getting requests for new productions during our live shows and we have responded by first giving our fans this single ‘Mucheka Weretso’, but more is coming,” added Vee Mhofu.
At some point, mbira music used get massive rotation on national radio, even in clubs.
Songs like “Saramugomo” and “Kumatendera” by Mbira DzeNharira topped the list.
But the rise of computer-generated sounds has taken its toll and mbira music is no longer what it once was.
Vee Mhofu, the Dziva ReMbira frontman, said there was scope to restore mbira’s legacy.
Virimai’s brother and fellow group member, Tapiwa, notes that mbira music is very much alive.
“People still love mbira music. It is not like the genre has faded, but we had stopped responding to market needs by consistently holding live shows and releasing new material. I am glad to say we are addressing this,” said Tapiwa.
The mbira has mystical and mythical roots, having been played both ritually and for entertainment by the Shona people.
Mbira music has for a long time been associated with tapping the ancestral realm, all-night biras and rain making ceremonies, as well as at weddings and the installation of traditional leaders.
Virimai says he has had his mystical encounters with the instrument.
“It is a long story, but the short of it is my first mbira instrument mysteriously appeared from underwater at a river called Mudotwe, where I usually went for swimming with my older brother, Edson.
“I was in Grade Five then. This was followed by numerous dreams and subsequently my learning to play the instrument,” revealed Vee Mhofu. The name of his group, Dziva ReMbira, literally translates to river of the mbira. Vee Mhofu has so far released two albums — “Makurutese” and “Chidhamu Dhamu”.
Before forming Dziva ReMbira, Virimai played for Akurara Mbira, Bumhangozi, Vembe Nhedza and the famed Mbira DzeNharira. Apart from music, he is also an actor and aspiring film producer.