Music of Zimbabwe

Southern African music
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Zimbabwean music includes folk and pop styles, much of it based on the well-known instrument the mbira. Zimbabwean pop is one of only a handful of African countries to have an international following, alongside South Africa, Tanzania, Congo-Kinshasa, Kenya, Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt and Senegal. Popular genres in Zimbabwe include native chimurenga and imported rumba, soukous and rock and roll. See also: Shona music.



The mbira, often called a thumb piano, is an integral part of Zimbabwean music. It is played while in a halved calabash which amplifies the sound and distorts it using shells or bottle caps place around the edges. Though musicology Hugh Tracey believed the mbira to be nearing extinction in the 1930s, the instrument has been revived since the 60s and 70s, and has gained an international following through the world music scene. Some renowned mbira players include Dumisani Maraire, Ephat Mujuru, Forward Kwenda, Stella Chiweshe and Tute Chigamba.


This is the local genre of the Zimbabwe music industry.Sungura music became popular in the early 1980's,when the new country of Zimbabwe, the biblical land of Ophir,residence of the ancient Queen of Sheba,became an independant nation.The King of Sungura music was no other than the maestroJames Chimombe,whose romantic ballads and the influential sungura guitar melody,(consisting of Lead,Rhythm and base,)made him the undisputed King.As he played at popular night spots such as Machipisa's Pamushandira Pamwe,,Chikwana's just to name a few,before he became a permanent resident at the talk of the town Hot Spot of the times- Club Hide Out 99which anybody who was somebody,revelled at from Politicians,Businessmen,Celebrities and all who wanted to have a good time.


Thomas Mapfumo, master of chimurenga, is probably the best known Zimbabwean musician outside of the country. He began his career singing covers of Western hits in the 60s, then began moving in a more experimental direction in the following decade. He founded Blacks Unlimited in 1978, by then singing in Shona and using traditional rhythms. By the end of the 80s, he was using actual mbiras in his band. Chimurenga was a tool of social activism and provided a means of communicating without others knowing (since the lyrics were in Shona).

Mapfumo's most popular successor, Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi is a prolific recorder who has also appeared in films like Jit. He plays in a plethora of styles, and is known for penetrating lyrics; for example, he wrote the first song about AIDS in Zimbabwe.


Jit is a generic term for electric guitar-driven pop, and includes wildly popular groups like the New Black Eagles and the Four Brothers. Internationally, the Bhundu Boys are by far the most well-known jit performers, and have worked with numerous American and British musicians.


African rumba is mostly associated with the Congo-Kinshasa, but Zimbabwe has produced rumba musicians like Simon Chimbetu and Leonard Karikoga Zhakata. Nowadays, Zimbabwean rumba is more popular than imported rumba.


Jonathan Wutawunashe was the first star of Zimbabwean gospel, and the genre has continued to grow in popularity. Brian Sibalo and Machanic Manyeruke are also very popular.


The Ndebele-dominated region of the southwest of Zimbabwe, including the city Bulawayo, has been instrumental in the development of Zimbabwean music. Seminal 1950s guitarist George Sibanda had a following across Africa, and Dorothy Masuka was a major player on the South African jazz scene, for example. Among the most popular performers of the region within Zimbabwe, however, was 1980s Ndebele pop sensation Lovemore Majaivana.Leornard"Musorowenyoka"Dembo,of karanga (shona)tribe orrigin,made history,by his music being internationally acclaimed and being used for the miss universe pageant show.

See also: Zimbabwean hip hop


  • Kendall, Judy and Banning Eyre. "Jit, Mbira and Chimurenga: Play It Loud!". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 706-716. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0fi:Zimbabwelainen musiikki

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