I never made it to Nyandoro’s. When people went to play mbira at Nyandoro’s, they would say, “I went to play at Nyandoro’s.” And everyone would say, “He is very good,” because only people who were excellent mbira players went to Nyandoro’s. But, you wouldn’t be allowed to play during the time when the elders play. Those elders would play four or five at a time. But even if you played with a group of twenty, you couldn’t match the sound of the five of them. They were excellent players.
So I was meant to go there with VaMukwani. VaMukwani was from the Nyandoro area. He was my wife’s relative. And his wife was Bandambira’s sister. So his wife was our relative, she was our father’s aunt. And she is the one who was related to Bandambira. So there is a relationship there.
He is the one who enabled me to really play mbira well. Yes, it was him. He taught me, “When you are playing kushaura, you go from the pamusoro keys of the top-left register to the nepasi ones of the bottom-left register. That is what you do. On the right-hand side, you keep varying those nhetete keys, because when you are playing them, your nhetete notes should be imitated by the one who is playing kutsinhira.
As you are playing, no one should be able to figure out who is playing kushaura and who is playing kutsinhira from listening your bass notes, those madhadha keys. They should be indistinguishable. But those who are playing will know who is playing kushaura, and who is playing kutsinhira.
His wife came from Nyandoro, and arrived at our house in Highfield. Yes, she was the host to the Negondo spirit. So, she is the one who informed me that female mhondoro spirits are referred to as mazenda. Because she said, “We are mazenda, and we travel together with those makombwe spirits.” So she is the one who told me.
She came, and lived with us for a whole month. She cooked for herself -she wouldn’t eat food prepared by anyone else. No one was approach where she stayed, not even a young child. Except for Garadziva, who would go and sleep on her blankets! Just sleeping there. So we said, “What is going on with this child?” We called her, and said, “Come and see what your grandchild is doing. He has fallen asleep on your blankets.” She came, and said, “Leave, my friend. Enough! Just go.”
He would leave, laughing as he went. Garadziva was mischievious! Now, it came to the point that we couldn’t get him to leave. He would leave on his own. We would simply leave him like that, we couldn’t get him to go. She would say, “Leave him, he is one of my people.” That is the time when he was playing “Dhongi, Mombe, Mbudzi.” He was a young child, just five years old, playing “Dhongi, Mombe, Mbudzi.” So, she called him one of her people.
When she left, her husband came. And he lived with us for three months. During those three months, we played mbira every day, just playing mbira from one Monday to the following Monday.
Now, he was ill when he arrived. He was sick. While we laid blankets out for him in the kitchen, he would go outside in the middle of the night. Because that is where we cooked, so there was a fire. I would go out looking for firewood, and bring it back, keeping the wood there. So as an elderly person he would go out and sleep there, by the fire.
I said, “Oh, this won’t do.” And I said to my wife, “Your father is not sleeping inside the house.” She said, “What! But I laid out blankets for him.” I said, “He isn’t sleeping inside, he is sleeping outdoors.” She said, “That can’t be true.” Because before we got up he would come back inside, and cover himself with the blankets.
I said to her, “Listen and you will hear. Your father is going out right at this instant, heading outside.” The next morning she asked him, “Father, what if you are killed here, sleeping in the hedge? Many people pass by on the side of the road. Anything might happen.” He said, “I just want to sleep being warmed by the fire.”
I said, “Oh.” And I discussed it with VaChihoro, saying, “Your father is ill.” Because he had said, “Yes, it is as if I am ill.” My wife went and said to him, “We are taking you back.” Then he refused, saying, “No, here I am at my in-laws’ home, and I don’t want to give you the trouble of taking me back home.” So he rebuffed me.
Then I told his relatives, and one of his children came to take him to the hospital on the hill, Harare Hospital. Next, one of his older children heard, a poacher who caught fish in the reservoir. And he came and took his father back to the village. Then two weeks later, he died.
We went to mourn him with our mbira playing. Then he was buried, and then we came back to Harare. He lived in Musami, by Pamahowa township. Near Pamahowa there is a village called Mushinga. That is where he lived, right nearby.
So he was the one who told me, “If I get better, I will take you to the spirit medium’s place at Nyandoro’s.” Because everyone who knew how to play mbira came from Nyandoro’s. That is where Bandambira played, and VaMukwani, and another person named VaMaichesa.
Then there was VaGwanzura. VaGwanzura was Sekuru Gora’s relative. Yes, he was called VaGwanzura. Then there were others, named VaMutinhima and Mukwenha. All of them were senior mbira players, whose playing was far advanced. When people like that entered, mbira was really played.
Now, he told me that I wouldn’t play with the junior people. If I had gone, I would have slept a bit first. Then when they called the esteemed senior players because the spirit wanted to come, that is when I would have entered with those advanced senior players, and I would have played with them.
I would say that VaMukwani is the one who polished up my mbira playing. Oh, he really sorted me out so that I am knowledgeable about everything having to do with mbira playing. I know all of the songs. His children even came, wanting to learn from me. Yes, VaMukwani’s children. I played with one of them who could only play kushaura parts, but he was a wonderful singer. His singing was impressive.