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The system of the mbira

Andrew Tracey

Abstract


The existence of a harmonically-based system of the mbira in Africa should be of great interest in itself, in comparison with modern African musical preferences, and for Afro-American music studies, where the blues sequence is another highly generative harmonic system. It demonstrates a unique method of getting harmonically “from here to there”, and offers an almost endless potential for Shona composers. In fact, the special tinge, the appeal, of modern Shona popular, church and school music comes in large part from the principles of the system which fortunately persist even when composers are working in Western harmony.This is a re-edited and updated version of the paper presented at the 7th Symposium on Ethnomusicology (Venda University) in 1988, published by ILAM in “Papers presented at the 7th and 8th Symposiums in Ethnomusicology” (1989). It is reproduced here because of the worldwide interest which has developed in mbira and its system in recent decades.

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21504/amj.v10i1.1229

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