Preserving Matepe music
in the 21st century

This site hosts:

  • A comprehensive masterclass in playing matepe, consisting of 120+ video tutorials taught by master musician Chaka Chawasarira
  • A documentation of the 50+ hour process of building a matepe, starting from a block of wood and a pile of scrap metal

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Project Blog

  • Electric worries & overtones

    Electric worries & overtones

    The day started with Samora noticing a strange noises from one block afar, shortly before the power went off. He said he once heard the same sounds when something in a transformer station blew up, and expected us to stay without electricity for a couple of days. Part of our equipment is a little solar…

  • Keys & Cutting, Buzzers, Decoration, Supporters

    Keys & Cutting, Buzzers, Decoration, Supporters

    Today Sekuru finished the matepe. After all keys were in place and tuned, Sekuru took them out one by one to file in the “scars” – decorative grooves on the upper side which also helps to keep the keys in place below the bar. He polished each key with the file and cuts off the…

  • Lazy Sunday afternoon

    Lazy Sunday afternoon

    We spent the later afternoon in the yard, chatting, listening to Sekuru’s 19-key karimba, drinking beer, myself trying to tune the two Zonke-tuning matepes which I had commissioned a few months ago to my liking, under Sekuru’s guidance. We quickly realised that filming a master craftsman building an instrument only goes that far – he…

  • Nhare, Matepe, and musical complexity

    Nhare, Matepe, and musical complexity

    This Sunday was our day off. We had some nice chats in the afternoon and Sekuru brought up a point he had already mentioned before: “One matepe is enough to call the spirits, with the nhare [mbira dzavadzimu] you need two instruments (or an exceptionally good player that can take the role of two).” I…

  • Outdoor delights & more keys

    Outdoor delights & more keys

    Recording outdoors is not easy. Every morning we set up our equipment, and take it down in the evening. At daytime there’s usually no electricity – which turned out to be a blessing, otherwise you hear noise and music from all over. There’s a whole range of familiar street noises from the other side of…

  • A few musical outtakes from our teaching sessions
  • Tools & Forging Keys

    Tools & Forging Keys

    We started the days with an overview of all tools and materials Chawasarira uses for matepe making, as well as possible replacements or workarounds if some tools are missing (like they did for mbira makers of former generations). Sekuru forges the left thumb keys in the order of which they are played in the Kuvachenjedza…

  • Kaleidophony

    Kaleidophony

    (this post is for social media, please excuse the redundancy) Most of us probably have seen the “Spinning Dancer”, a famous bistable optical illusion. Does the dancer turn left or right? Your brain decides, the animation is always the same. What if I told you that there is music which works the same way? Enter…

  • Matepe making: Fitting spokes and forging keys

    Matepe making: Fitting spokes and forging keys

    Today Sekuru shared with us his secrets on how to securely attach the bar to the soundboard, using bicycle spokes. In the morning he went to a local market to look for them. With the bar securely in place, Chawasarira explained the details of key forging. After finishing the first key, it was Samora’s and…

  • Making the bridge, bar and brace

    Making the bridge, bar and brace

    After finishing the hardwood inlays, and levelling the hard and soft bits of the soundboard, Sekuru showed how to make and fit in the bridge (which the keys rest on), the bar (which holds the keys in place, and the brace (which wraps around the soundboard and holds the bar in place.

  • Matepe making: Hardwood inlays

    Matepe making: Hardwood inlays

    After recording Hurombo, Sekuru was keen to finish the hardwood inlays of the matepe soundboard. They are used for the keys to rest on, and to prevent the bridge from tilting when inserting the keys (Chawasarira’s innovation).

  • Hurombo

    Hurombo

    This morning we started recording and overdubbing the two parts of Hurombo (poverty), a song also played at a mhondoro ceremony, but for the “lesser spirits”.