This is the traditional music that comes from the MaNyungwe people of North Western Mozambique. They are a small group just over the border of Zimbabwe on the road to Tete. Their language is ChiNyungwe and is heavily mixed with ChiShona and Portugese. We communicated in Shona, as they do not speak English. My first experience with Nyanga music was when traveling through Changara, Mozambique. My friend and I were in the town for three days and in that time we were lucky enough to come across a group that played. They invited us to come and watch a performance. As they came out in their colorful costumes and began their dance, I was instantly brought to tears at the beauty and power of the music. We were on vacation from Zimbabwe at the time, but I still had brought along a recorder and asked for permission to record the music. Permission was granted by the person that I thought was in charge. We recorded the performance of the 50+ players and singers and took pictures of the group at the conclusion. We all had a great time , but had to depart quickly as our bus to Harare would soon arrive...
Upon our return to Zimbabwe, I put on the tape to listen to the recording and found that nothing had recorded. Having recorded music professionally for some time, I was quite shocked to find this as I knew I had indeed recorded the music. That could have been explained away easily enough however, but then when my friend went to develop the pictures of the group, we found all the photos has come out-except for the photos of the Nyanga group.
That settled it for me, and I decided that I needed to go back to Cancune and get to know the people there and see if they would be willing to teach me some of their beautiful music. Upon arriving back in Changara and traveling to Cancune, I was once again greeted by the people there and told them the story of the recording I had made. They all had a good laugh about that and after about two weeks of my hanging around, I guess they realized that they wouldn't get rid of this crazy white guy so easily! I owe so much to the wonderful people there in Cancune for generously showing their intricate music and dances to me, and allowing me to record and return to teach others this music. My thanks must especially go to Simoes John Pemba for patiently going through each of the 22 panpipes again and again to make sure that I understood how to interlock them.
(Traditional panpipe and ChiSanza)
(2001, Length 1:03:03, Notes: 4pp.)
When you hear this music, think of heat. Not just the heat of a summer day in Texas, or sweating as you walk. HEAT. The heat that doesn't allow you to sleep through the night without pouring water over your head and wishing the wind would blow. The heat that causes you to cut open an old plastic bottle and fashion a hand fan so that you can fan yourself under your mosquitoe net until you simply pass out from exhaustion-until the sweat all over your body wakes you up again in five minutes. HEAT. The heat that will cause you to sit in the shade for hours on end. And if you haven't eaten all day and your food is twenty feet away in the sun...you'll wait until nightfall to get it. Heat. Now you get the idea. And in this climate is born Nyanga music. A panpipe orchestra of up to 50 people playing different interlocking pipes , all dancing in unison in a circle with a rattle attached to the right leg. Intricate musical interplay that shifts and sways like the view of everything in the...HEAT. And from this powerful music comes the ultimate necessity. Rain. And when they played, it rained. There was one day where it must have been 110+ degrees and then the sky opened up and rained so hard that hail even fell from the sky.
The first five tracks on this CD are a solo recording of Simoes John Pemba playing the ChiSanza. This is similar to the nyunga-nyunga, but has 22 keys. It is played with just the thumbs, held against a small goard with an animal hide attached to it. there is a stick that props the body of the ChiSanza against the animal skin, turning it into a small soundboard to amplify the sound. Even though only playing with two fingers, John Pemba can easily play three or four simultaneous melodic lines as well as singing. Also, due to the extra notes, listeners may notice the similarity to the repertoire of the larger mbira of Zimbabwe.
The following 3 tracks on the CD are Nyanga panpipe pieces played by thirteen panpipers and dancers. There is generally a lead singer that will be singing social commentary. Periodically he will then sing out the name of the next dance step, and in unison everyone will change the dance-their leg rattles creating strong polyrhythms against the music of the pipes.
Simoes John Pemba: Leader of the Nyanga group and
Nyanga Players: Coming soon.
Lyrics on this album are sung in ChiNyungwe, which Joel doesn't speak. Efforts are underway to find a native speaker so hopefully someday, the songs will be translated.