Music and spirit possession at a Shona Bira


  • Paul Berliner Northwestern University



During the year 1971-72 and the summers of 1974 and 1975, in which I carried out field research in Rhodesia on mbira music, I had the opportunity to attend as an observer and, at times, as a performer, over thirty spirit possession ceremonies held by members of the traditionalist segment of Shona culture. At these events villagers participate with tremendous energy and the intensity of their music is deeply moving. In this article, my aim is to describe the purpose underlying Shona spirit possession ceremonies as well as the nature of the music and the interaction among participants at these events


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Kauffman, Robert, 1969, “Some Aspects of Aesthetics in the Shona Music of Rhodesia”, Ethnomusicology, XIII, p.507-511.
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How to Cite

Berliner, Paul. 1975. “Music and Spirit Possession at a Shona Bira”. African Music : Journal of the International Library of African Music 5 (4):130-39.