Mbira dzavadzimu | Nhare | Tsatsi
To play the Mbira or Nhare hold the soundboard by its sides at the bottom, inserting the baby finger of the right hand through the soundboard hole; this situates the high notes which are short to the right. The short notes on this side are played by the right hand thumb with a downward motion and the index finger from beneath the tongues with an upwards motion. The right hand thumb plays only the first 3 right hand notes from the fourth note going up to the last 8th or 9th note you use the index finger. A bit of nail on your finger protects the finger skin and amplifies the plucking or playing sound.
The left hand side of the Mbira has got two parallel rows which are middle- and low-register ranks with the longer metal blades or keys. The metal blades on the left are plucked by the left hand thumb with a downward motion). Mbira dzavadzimu (of the ancestors) is a great Instrument that requires passion, patience, courage and practice to play it well. In Zimbabwe where it originates, when its played there’s no audience. Everybody is part of the Mbira music ceremony from singing, dancing, playing, drumming and clapping hands. The stamina to play Mbira is developed by playing the instrument a million times and also exercising your upper body muscles. Play a mbira part that you’ve learnt over and over again until you can do it with your eyes closed, then you are in the right direction. Do not forget to breathe when you are playing any instrument. It relaxes you and you need relaxation to play or sing better.
The two players performing on same tuned mbira Instruments produce complementary interlocking parts in Shona language (kushaura, ‘to lead,’ and kutsinhira, ‘to harmonize and accompany’) within a Mbira’s melodic phrase that is cyclical. Songs like Chamutengure are short and easier for beginners to understand how to play, add more notes to a Mbira part and interlock in two people’s Mbira playing. Over time within a performance, the details of the separate and combined mbira parts will subtly evolve and put you in a beautiful natural trance state as a listener or player.