THE Princess of Mbira, Hope Masike, has fallen in love with Matabeleland cultural music and dances in a development that has persuaded her to moot creatively fusing it with the Mashonaland cultural music and dances.
Masike who is currently in the city for a cultural exchange programme with award-winning Umkhathi Theatre Works Company could not hide her joy about her experiences here.
“I decided to do this also because I believe we need more inter-regional exchanges. I have done a few international exchanges which were fantastic always. But I started imagining how great the same kind of exchanges would be for us here at home, with or without funding. And I wasn’t wrong. The exchange has been great,” Masike told the Daily News.
She added: “Learning new things adds new tools to my bag of tricks for the stage. I shall take some time to … blend musical cultures of Matabeleland and those of Mashonaland. I am excited to see what I shall come up with then share with my fans.”
Masike said the exchange programmes among local artists could be the best way forward in developing local arts.
“I believe we need to foster more local collaborations across our regions. It will make our artists more diverse as local products as well as beyond our borders.
“It will bring about a natural decentralisation of everything. It will also bring better understanding and positive interaction among all the people of Zimbabwe, thereby encouraging unity and productivity across the country,” she said.
Masike said she was saddened that foreign musicians and researchers always come to Zimbabwe with grants to go to various areas, including the remote ones learning and documenting our cultures, “yet the local musician and ethnographer fail to get funds to facilitate this as the bigger part is still at the utmost bottom part of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs”.
“I had to save up for a long time to be able to go stay in Bulawayo for some weeks while focusing on learning only. Most musicians are probably unable to do this in this current economic environment.”
She further expressed her concern.
“Where other countries with thriving economies have grants available for research, we don’t as yet. So it becomes much most important and urgent for us to mobilise the little resources we have and research and document our cultures. It’s a heritage we must guard and be careful not to blindly lose to others. Africa needs to write and document her own stories too.”
The Princess of Mbira said she was planning to do more exchange programmes more often while also expanding beyond Matabeleland.
“If I am said to be a custodian of the Zimbabwean culture because I play mbira, I think it only noble that I also know all the other cultures of Zimbabwe, not just the most prominent, because it’s all part of Zimbabwe. If I could be able to be travelling to all places in Zimbabwe learning and documenting our ancient cultures, I would be the happiest human alive.”
Meanwhile, she has described Umkhati Theatre Works as a very professional and highly skilled performance company.
“Upon my arrival, they had a whole presentation of their works ready for me. They sat me down and showcased their amazing skills in performance. Then they took me through the programme of the entire visit, followed by a small tour of the suburb. They worked me like a horse I tell you and I suddenly realised how unfit I had been. I enjoyed every bit of it.”
She added: “Besides these, I also learnt how ‘culturally’ active and professional Bulawayo is. Rehearsals are taken seriously. When we sing while dancing, that’s exactly what we do, with all our energy even if it’s still a lesson.”