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Jennifer Kyker


One among dozens of musical bows dispersed throughout southern Africa, the Shona chipendani is nearly universally portrayed as the exclusive domain of Shona herdboys. In this article, it is argued that the chipendani’s musical and social identity extends beyond this conventional portrayal, and how diverse groups of people have been actively involved in performing the instrument is illustrated. It is suggested that the chipendani’s social role extends to contexts ranging from courtship to the ritual sphere of ceremonies such as the postfunerary rite of kurova guva, and the spirit possession rituals of the bira. As the chipendani moves out of the domain of child’s play, more about the musical and social qualities of the chipendani itself is learned, and the chipendani can be seen in relation to the larger family of musical bows dispersed throughout southern Africa, opening new possibilities for thinking about similarity and difference in the diverse traditions of musical bow playing.

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