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Playing the mbira. Photography by Jeff Crandall, Musician, 2008; Solomon Murungu; Bolton, Massachusetts;
Playing the mbira. Photography by Jeff Crandall, Musician, 2008
Solomon Murungu
Bolton, Massachusetts
Solomon Murungo photographed by Jeff Crandall; Musician; 2008: Bolton, Massachusetts
Solomon Murungo playing the mbira. Photograpy by Jeff Crandall; Musician; 2008: Bolton, Massachusetts
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Solomon Murungu
Belmont, MA
Web Site
After emigrating from Zimbabwe to the United States in 1973 to further his education, Solomon Murungu became deeply inspired by the famed reggae musician Bob Marley and the Rastafari movement of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Intrigued by the movement's focus on Black pride, Murungu was driven to explore his own heritage. Murungu's heritage embodies a complex and brutal history well-known by individuals from post-colonial nations. As a former British colony, Western ideals and Christian beliefs were forced upon the indigenous population of Zimbabwe, and traditional culture was historically construed as "backward", "savage", and "primitive" throughout the 20th century. Almost three decades after Independence was attained in 1980, these sentiments continually resonate as elements of indigenous heritage are still marginalized within mainstream Zimbabwean society.

Intent on discovering his roots, Solomon's journey began by returning to Zimbabwe, where he immersed himself in traditional Shona music by purchasing several albums and listening for hours on end. In the early 1990s, Murungu purchased his first mbira, an instrument that is central to traditional music in Zimbabwe. His first teacher was the internationally renowned mbira player Ephat Mujuru, who was touring in the Unites States in the early 1990s. After studying with Mujuru, Murungu returned to Zimbabwe regularly, where he continued his research on traditional music and continued to hone his knowledge of the mbira repertoire. His initial work resulted in the first website dedicated to mbira music, which eventually expanded into an organization, Zambuko Projects Unlimited ( Through Zambuko, Murungu has travelled throughout the region promoting cross-cultural exploration through presentations on mbira music and Shona culture.

Among the Zezuru speaking Shona people of Zimbabwe, mbira music plays an integral role in ceremonies called mapira (bira, sing.). In a bira, mbira players are accompanied by hosho (percussion instruments made out of hollowed maranka gourds filled with hota seeds), drumming, singing and clapping. This communal music appeases ancestral spirits, who are summoned to possess the spirit medium present at the ritual. The medium can then be consulted on a variety of issues including crop failure, illness, and other concerns about which the community seeks advice. The power of mbira music lies in its ability to bridge to gap between the living and the ancestors. This power allows the Shona to communicate with their ancestors, who guide them in the present.
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