U.S. musical group ends Zim HIFA tour with disabled children

Harare – United States based musical group Ruzivo concluded their visit in Zimbabwe on Wednesday by spending time with students from St. Giles Special School in Harare, where they donated $3,000 worth of marimba equipment.

Ruzivo“We are so touched by the culture and the music and we are so happy to be doing this,” said Dana Moffett, a member of the musical group. “We have been doing a musical exchange for a number of years with our culture program, but this exchange started when Ruzivo fundraised and built the notes (for the marimbas) in the United States and brought them here while a Zimbabwean team built the stands and the resonators.”

The equipment consists of four sets of marimbas- baritone, tenor, alto and soprano- made of a special type of wood sourced from South America.

Three members of the seven member Ruzivo band- Moffett, Rose Orskog and Lonnie Welsh- were joined by Zimbabwean musicians- Jacob Mafuleni (Mbira DzeMuninga), John Mambira (Bongo Love) and Martha Thom (Vibe Culture)– to perform marimba music for the children and teachers at the school, eliciting emotional reactions from the students and teachers.

St Giles Special School has a musical band called Stitches which released its first album in 2010. The group performed songs for the visiting Americans,providing a rendition of their songs- Mandirasa, Marara and Chembere Dzemusango. Trust Mutekwa, (aka Ticha Muzavazi), music director at the school, said the donation will change the face of music at the school and perceptions of disability in Zimbabwe.

“Today is our breakthrough day; it is going to change the face of our music at St Giles Special School and is also going to change the face of disability in Zimbabwe,” said Mutekwa. “That we believe because this year’s theme of our Day of the African Child is on ‘children with disabilities,’ we have seen that art is a powerful in presenting a message that kills the connotative attitude that we have about people with disabilities as exemplified by Steve Kekana (Zimbabwe) and Stevie Wonder (U.S.),” said Mutekwa who is also a poet.

He said the children at the school spent time hitting piles of wood with marimba sticks hoping to come up with notes for their music.

“Since January 7, 2009, we have not produced anything on the marimba side because of poor equipment,…unlike the mbira side which has produced an album and has been part of HIFA since 2009,” said Mutekwa.

Another teacher at the school was in tears expressing her appreciation to Ruzivo for their gesture.

“I was crying because this is such a big gesture to be remembered. People do not know that we exist,” said Anna Mary Mupfanochiya. “I was touched because I know the value of the marimbas and for you to pick us is the beginning of something, you have begun a beautiful song with us.”

The event was attended by officials from the U.S. Embassy. In his remarks, the U.S. Embassy’s Michael Brooke, Public Diplomacy Officer at the U.S. Embassy, said the donation by Ruzivo was testimony to U.S. values and continuing cordial relations between the people of Zimbabwe and the United States.

“This initiative is something that we hope to see continuing on a bigger scale in Zimbabwe, the continuing partnership between the people of Zimbabwe and the United States,” said Brooke.

Ruzivo, a 2004 initiative of Matanho Project, a U.S. based nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of Zimbabwean musicians and their communities, provided Zimbabwean audiences with a mix of traditional Zimbabwean music based on a combination of marimba, bass guitar, drums and the mbira. The group is directed by Paul Mataruse, a Zimbabwean living in the U.S. and draws its name from the Shona word for “knowledge.”- ZimPAS© May 10, 2012