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The Mujuru Brothers

Monday, September 10, 2012
12:00 AM
Ann Arbor Campus

Fradreck and Samuel Mujuru were born in Dewedzo, Rusape, Zimbabwe.  Both  grew up at Dambatsoko, their grandfather’s village.The environment was full of traditional rituals and rites because Muchatera Mujuru, their  grandfather, was a revered spirit medium. The village was a melting pot for many mbira musicians who came to play for the Muchatera’s spirit, such that at any time of the day mbira might be heard.

In 1972, Fradreck was accepted into the prestigious circle of mbira musicians at Dambatsoko who played for Muchatera. Among them were Ephat Mujuru, Fungai Mujuru, Komboni Mujuru, and Fradreck’s father, Musekiwa Mujuru. Also playing  were Fradreck Manjengwa, Cletos Manjengwa and Charles Mutwira. After playing on borrowed instruments that blistered his fingers, Fradreck vowed to improve on the instrument and inspiration for this came from the recurring dreams of his late grandfather. With great willpower, Fradreck apprenticed with Sekuru Gora (Thomas Wadharwa) and then Thomas Muza from Hwedza. Thomas Muza emphasized the importance of  quality instruments. The first mbira Fradreck made was not good enough, and he had to rebuild it four times before it was satisfactory.  Mujuru began to specialize in making the mbira in Dambatsoko tuning, which has been played by the Mujurus for generations. According to Fradreck, the tuning was formerly called “Madhebhe” at the Chitungwiza court of Chaminuka and he adopted the name “Dambatsoko” because it was the name used for his grandfather’s spirit (buried at Dambatsoko). Word quickly spread about the instruments that Fradreck was making, and his customers first came in trickles but then began to flood him with orders. His mbira have been sent to mbira players around the world; as far as Australia and Japan. He believes that the success of his instruments comes from the fact that he prioritizes sound quality, appearance and durability of the instrument. Fradreck has performed and toured in Germany, Holland, South Africa and the United States. In 2001 Fradreck and his brother Samuel did a residency at Grinnell College, This tour is Fradreck's 5th tour to the US.

Samuel Mujuru is a member  of the Mujuru family of mbira players from Dewedzo, Zimbabwe, and the brother of Fradreck Mujuru. Sam has played mbira for traditional bira ceremonies throughout Zimbabwe, but especially in his familial area, Dambatsoko.  Like Fradreck, Samuel Mujuru plays on the low, mellow, Dambatsoko-tuned mbira that is representative of the Mujuru family. Samuel previously taught mbira at the Zimbabwe College of  Music, and also made mbiras for the college.  Sam enjoys teaching, and is especially curious about how people learn, and tries to accommodate different learning styles as he teaches. This is Samuel's second visit to the US. In 2001 he did a residency at Grinnell College with his brother Fradreck. Samuel also has toured and performed in Germany, Holland and South Africa.  Samuel makes mbira, a skill that he was taught by his elder brother, Fradreck Mujuru. His mbira have been sent to mbira players in the US and as far away as Japan.