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Mbira Musician

Davison Mudzingwa/Twenty Ten

Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

AUDIO: The sounds of the Mbira entertain shoppers.

CUE: Big businesses might have recorded high profits from increased traffic, thanks to the World Cup. However, even a humble Zimbabwean musician is counting the gains. Playing an African instrument made famous in Zimbabwe and known as the Mbira, Nathan Chakuchichi entertains guests every day in a local car park.


Not only is Nathan Chakuchichi making the instrument famous to tourists, he is tackling social issues such as xenophobia and migration.

FX: MBIRA (Play, Fade Under)—00:15”

LINK 1: In a piercingly chilly winter evening, a shrilling voice emanates from a car park of the trendy shopping mall of Rosebank in Johannesburg. Drawing nearer to the source, I could hear the underlying steely acoustic sound. Clasped in thick wool hat and scarf—Nathan Chakuchichi plays the mbira instrument to customers parking cars—for small change.


FX: MBIRA 00:10” (Fade In, Play, Fade Under)

LINK 2: Made popular in Zimbabwe as a cultural instrument, the Mbira is new to many overseas visitors flocking to South Africa for the 2010 Soccer World Cup

CLIP 1: NATHAN—00:20”

They are very much amazed, some of them didn’t even know about the instrument …they learn much about our culture.

LINK 3: Mbira, known by some as thumb-nail piano, resonates, sounding through a stick that transmits the flattened iron keys to the dome-shaped wooden calabash.

CLIP: NATHAN—00:15”—explaining the transmission of sound.

LINK 4: Despite playing this unique instrument at the most humble space of a shopping mall for small change from car owners; Chakuchichi has achieved success. For the past three years of playing at the mall, he has been regularly invited to functions, and now the World Cup in South Africa, he says, has opened even bigger opportunities

CLIP 3: NATHAN—00:25”

We are selling a lot of CDs, we are getting overseas contracts from visitors coming from other countries…

LINK 5: It’s more than the instrument for Chakuchichi…

FX: Fade in song, fade out—6 sec.

Link 6: It’s also about the message in his songs…

FX: SONG WITH LYRICS 00:13” (Play, Fade Out)

LINK 6: For instance, this song in Shona, the largest spoken language in Zimbabwe, bemoans passing heroes of the music industry. The musician weaves emphatically through the message of HIV and AIDS, as if telling his audience not to follow the paths of the fallen giants.

FX: FADE SONG 00:10” (Fade In, Play, Fade Out)

LINK 8: Chakuchichi, who started playing the instrument at the age of eight, also cares to tackle issues of xenophobia and the suffering of Zimbabweans in recent years.


Some of our visitors were hearing about Zimbabweans, now they have met us they want to know what happened…so we explain this.

LINK 9: The father of two entertains his audience with his dexterity, toggling this unique instrument. His ability to maintain the rhythm, talking at the same time, amazes me as I round off the interview.


LINK 10: This cultural instrument, used for spiritual communication in Zimbabwe and few other African countries, has seen Chakuchichi earn a living, and the trend is rising in South Africa, as more Mbira players from Zimbabwe are playing in restaurants in and around Johannesburg.

FX: MBIRA MUSIC—00:15” (Fade In, Play, Fade Out—after OUTRO)

Reporting from Johannesburg for the Twenty Ten project, I’m Davison Mudzingwa.

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