Fradreck Mujuru, the grandson of the legendary Muchatera Mujuru, grew up on the largest extended family of mbira players in Zimbabwe. Strongly drawn to the instrument as a boy, he began to play at the age of eight, later learning how to build mbiras as well. Today, he is considered by many to be the greatest living mbira maker, as well as a highly respected musician. Instruments he built are now played on every continent! Fraderck toured Europe and South Africa during the 1990s, as well as teaching and performing in the US during 7 visits in the past 16 years, including residencies at Grinnell College and Williams College. Erica Azim became one of the first non-Zimbamweans to study the mbira in Zimbabwe with traditional masters of the instrument. She is now known as a gwenyambira: a musician qualified to play at traditional religious ceremonies. Azim is the founder of Mbira.org, a non-for-profit organization that is dedicated to preserving and sustaining Zimbabwean music, and to teaching and distributing the music more broadly. During their residency at Wellesley College, Fradreck Mujuru and Erica Azim will lead a working with the Yanvalou Drum and Dance Ensemble.
The mbira is the classic instrument of Zimbabwe, with an entire musical genre developed around it. It has been an important instrument in sub-Saharan Africa and has played a part in African culture for centuries. The mbira consists of approximately 20-24 flattened metal prongs, which are fastened at one end to a wooden resonator body (usually some sort of box shape). It sits in a calabash (gourd), which acts as its resonator. The free ends of the metal prongs are plucked with the thumb of the left hand and the thumb and index finger of the right hand. The mbira was used by the Shona to connect the living with the ancestors for over 1,000 years. It is commonly used to accompany singers and dancers.
Generously supported by the Baum Fund, Residency Fund, and in cooperation with MIT. This concert is free and open to the public.