Erica Azim, one of the few non-Zimbabweans viewed as qualified to perform in traditional Shona spiritual ceremonies, will be in-residence at the Eastman School of Music beginning Tuesday, April 7, and will give several presentations that are free and open to the public.
Azim is recognized as one of the world’s leading performers and teachers of the Zimbabwean mbira dzavadzimu. The name “mbira dzavadzimu” means “mbira of the ancestral spirits” and the instrument has a central spiritual and cultural role in ceremonies of traditional Shona society of Zimbabwe. It is a diatonic instrument of 22 to 28 metal tabs that are fixed to a wooden soundboard and plucked by the thumbs. A gourd resonator amplifies the sound, and attached pieces of metal, bottle caps, or shells produce additional buzzing sounds as the keys are plucked.
A Californian who fell in love with Shona mbira music when she first heard it at the age of 16, Azim taught herself to play the mbira dzavadzimu by ear. In 1974, she became one of the first Americans to study the mbira in Zimbabwe with traditional masters of the instrument. She has toured the United States and Canada, performing and teaching mbira workshops. Azim also founded and directs the non-profit organization MBIRA, which supports more than 135 traditional musicians and instrument makers in Zimbabwe.
Azim’s public presentations will include a recital of traditional Shona mbira music, a workshop on mbira, and a discussion of her experiences in Zimbabwe over the past three decades. She recently returned from a seven-week stay in the country, which is facing a hunger crisis, cholera epidemic, and governmental unrest. She will also have lessons with Eastman students, visit the School of the Arts, and rehearse with Eastman’s Mbira Ensemble.
Azim’s residency at Eastman is sponsored by the Ethnomusicology Program. For more information, contact Glenn West, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Recital of Zimbabwean Mbira DzaVadzimu by Erica Azim.
Ciminelli Formal Lounge, 100 Gibbs St.
4 to 6 p.m.
Introduction to Mbira workshop, presented by Erica Azim.
Room 12, Eastman Theatre, 60 Gibbs St.
Presentation: “Erica Azim and Mbira: Experiences from Rhodesia 1974 to Zimbabe 2009”
Messinger Hall, 10 Gibbs St.