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Lesson 1: Learning “Hurombo Gara Wega”

Aim: How do you build a ChiVanhu song using layers?
Summary: Students will learn the song “Hurombo Gara Wega” and the accompanying rhythmic and melodic layers, and explore the form of the song.
Materials: Musical Explorers digital resources, Musical Explorers Student Guide, barred instruments
Standards: National 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11; NYC 1, 2, 3, 4
Vocabulary: ancestor, ChiVanhu, hosho, kushaura, kuombera, kutsinhira, layer, mbira, mutupo, totem

“Hurombo Gara Wega” is part of a genre of spiritual songs in the ChiVanhu tradition, which honor and create a spiritual connection to ancestors. These songs are generally played at ceremonies and rituals called mapira on a special kind of mbira called Mbira dzaVadzimu. The music is built in layers, interweaving the contrapuntal lines played on the mbira with the vocal melody and percussive rhythms played with hosho (shakers), danced with magabvu (leg shakers) and kuombera (clapping). Every aspect of the music talks to each other.

Tanyaradzwa Teaches “Hurombo Gara Wega”

“Hurombo Gara Wega” Demonstration

Zimbabwean Mbira artist Tanyaradzwa teaches “Hurombo Gara Wega.”

Sing “Hurombo Gara Wega”

  • Listen to the audio track “Hurombo Gara Wega.”
  • Learn the lyrics to “Hurombo Gara Wega” using the audio tracks “Hurombo Gara Wega” pronunciation and “Hurombo Gara Wega” additional pronunciation.
  • Sing the melody of “Hurombo Gara Wega,” using the audio track “Hurombo Gara Wega” chorus.
  • Notice that the song is in call-and-response form. The call is the kushaura line, and the response is the kutsinhira. Your students can focus on learning the kutsinhira line, but they can also learn the kushaura line.

“Hurombo Gara Wega”


Kushaura: Ndiudzeyiwo kwakaenda vamwe?
Kutsinhira: Hurombo gara wega

Kushaura: Ambuya vangu vakaendepiko?
Kutsinhira: Hurombo gara wega

Kushaura: Sekuru vangu vakaendepiko?
Kutsinhira: Hurombo gara wega

Kushaura: Ndiudzeyiwo kwakaenda vamwe?
Kutsinhira: Hurombo gara wega



Call: Where did the others go?
Response: Heartache stay away

Call: Where did my grandmother go?
Response: Heartache stay away

Call: Where did my grandfather go?
Response: Heartache stay away

Call: Where did the others go?
Response: Heartache stay away ;

Explore the Lyrics in “Hurombo Gara Wega”

  • “Hurombo Gara Wega” honors the memory of our ancestors—all the people that came before us and make us who we are. In Zimbabwean cultures, ancestors continue to be an important presence in a family’s life, even after they are gone. The song is an expression of yearning and is about anyone you miss in your life.
  • As a class, explore what students know about their ancestors, starting with parents and grandparents, and discovering whether any students have family stories that reach further back.
  • Explain that names can be an important link to our ancestors.
    • Tanyaradzwa’s family name is Nzou Matemai, which means "elephant." The elephant is the family mutupo (totem), so it has special meaning for the family.
  • Students will learn more about mitupo (totems) with Your Family Mutupo (totem) (PDF). Encourage students to talk about their family names at home and share with the class.
    • What does your last name mean? Where does it come from? Why is it special for your family?
    • Where do your first and middle names come from? Are you named after one of your ancestors?
    • What family stories do you have about your ancestors?

Discover Layers in “Hurombo Gara Wega”

  • Mbira music is often created by layering different parts, including several interwoven lines performed on the mbira, the vocal line, and the percussion rhythms. The layers are added one at a time, building like a wave to elevate people’s spirits and heighten the energy.
  • Your students will learn four of these layers:
    • Basic mbira pattern
    • Vocal melody
    • Hosho (shakers)
    • Kuombera (clapping)
  • Listen to the audio track “Hurombo Gara Wega,” noting when each of the layers enters.
  • Using the audio track Basic mbira pattern, learn the basic mbira pattern (layer 1), which can be played on barred instruments.
    • Note that the mbira player adds more notes and layers to this basic pattern. The mark of an expert mbira player is how many different interlocking lines she can play.
  • Using the audio track Hoshio pattern, learn the hosho pattern, using any kind of shaker.
  • Learn the kuombera pattern (or clapping rhythm) using the audio track Kuombera pattern.
  • If your students are ready, try layering two or three patterns together and adding the melody.
Creative Extension

Explore the Mbira

  • The mbira is made of strips of metal mounted on a gwariva (a wooden board) and set over a deze (a hollow box or resonator). It is played with the thumb and fingers. There are many kinds of mbiras in Zimbabwe. Tanyaradzwa will introduce two of them: the Mbira dzaVadzimu, which is used in sacred and ritual settings; and the Nyunga Nyunga, which is used in more social and recreational settings. Someone who plays the mbira is called a gwenyambira.
  • Using Explore the Mbira (PDF), your students will learn about the mbira.
Creative Extension

Learn about Mutupo, the Family Totem

  • Each family in Zimbabwe has a totem—an animal that represents the family throughout the generations. The animal is chosen for its special qualities and is very important to the family. It actually becomes part of the family’s name. Tanyaradzwa’s family totem is the elephant, her family name is Nzou Matemai, and her name is Nzou Mambano. Nzou means elephant.
    • Why do you think Tanyaradzwa’s ancestors chose the elephant to represent their family? What qualities do you think an elephant has?
    • Brainstorm other animals and the qualities that make them special.
    • What animal would you choose to represent your family and why?
  • Using Your Own Mutupo (PDF), have your students choose their mutupo, draw a picture of their family and their totem animal, and describe why they chose this animal to represent their family.

Musical Word Wall

Add the words ancestor, chivanhu, hosho, kushaura, kuombera, kutsinhira, layer, mbira, and totem to the Musical Word Wall.

Image Credits

Malcolm Shabazz market photo by Hannah Santisi

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