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rattletree.com • View topic - Andrew Tracey: matepe article and video Q and A's

Andrew Tracey: matepe article and video Q and A's

Detailed look at the music...

Andrew Tracey: matepe article and video Q and A's

Postby zigzag on Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:17 pm

Ok all!

I wrote a long e-mail to Dr. Andrew Tracey with many questions pertaining to the matepe article he wrote in 1970: "The matepe mbira music of Rhodesia" and also the video from 1977: "Matepe Dza Mhondhoro- a musical healing party" Here are the fruits from this exchange.

Z: "There are two players that you transcribed matepe parts from: Saini Madera
and Saini Murira. Did these two players regularly play together at the time this
article was written?"

A.T.: "Yes, they did. Madera died in a road accident in about the 70s, Murira, although
nearly blind, survived many years more."

Z: "If so, are these parts that you transcribed, generally speaking, meant to
be played together?"

A.T.: "Yes."

Z : "If this is so, would you say that there is a specific spot that each of
the parts are supposed to be, in relationship to 'the' / 'a major' pulse of
the song? Is this relationship to a 'main pulse' 'important' ? Or another
possibility in my mind, the relationship of one part with another part has
more 'importance' than the individual parts relationship to the 'beat'?
You wrote in the 1970 Matepe article that two or more players playing
together are only concerned with each other being in a "right enough spot."
Could you describe this a little more in detail? Do ways that parts fit
together follow any rules like one part is supposed to 'hocket' with the
other or do parts share the same position in relationship to beat (whereas
with mbira dzavadzimu this might be viewed as "on top of another part" if
there are only two players?) Or is it just generally people play where
they hear there part?"

A.T. : "What I always took care with was ensuring that the first note of each written
version coincided with one of the 3-pulse claps, or root beat, of the hosho/nkhocho
parts. Having written down the piece, often not being sure where the beat was, I
would start clapping first, then the player would start playing. Then we checked it
the other way around -- usually I found that the player would agree
enthusiastically with my clapping (if I was right, that is!), but sometimes I found
that players would accept me putting the 3-pulse clap in any of the three possible
positions in relation to their playing! They just accepted whichever way I clapped
as fitting accurately into their pulse system, although two of the ways probably
felt as an after- or an up-beat to them. But a more likely possibility is that,
without stopping the flow of their playing, they were able to adapt instantly to
the beat I was clapping, and just go on in that relationship. That flexibility is
what I remarked on in the article. And all the time in performance the several
hoshos continue to play individually and simultaneously in groups of 2, 3 and 4
pulses. I find, though, that the 3-pulse beat is the predominant perception in most
Shona mbira music of all kinds and is the basis of the 'feet', i.e. the dance
steps.
The hardest and fastest rule for combining two parts comes mainly from the left
hand phrasing. If one mbira plays two pulses and then omits one, usually in a
high-low movement (H L . H L . ) this nearly always means that first of the
pair is the 3-pulse clap beat. A second mbira never plays the same pattern 'on top'
of this, but plays in many cases a 2-pulse movement |x . x . x . |. This
leaves the way open for a third player to play so the left hand strokes interlock
with those of the second player |. x . x . x |. This usually means that the
right hand parts also interlock, but the rule comes primarily from the left hand.
There is not that much variety in the rhythmic phrasing of the left hand parts, it
turns out. Every player has his favourite fingering for each tune, and because they
play regularly with other players, it settles down into an accustomed relationship.
Another rule seems to be that the left index plays in a contrasting movement with
neighbouring players, mostly in a 3- or 4-pulse pattern, which leaves plenty of
choice, in principle, between seven potentially available pulses (three in 3-pulse
phrasing, 4 in 4-pulse phrasing). I found the skill of players in changing from one
to another to be extraordinary.
You ask which is more important. Not the kind of question which makes sense to an
African musician. What I can say is that interdependence between a main beat on
mbiras and on hoshos is less fixed with matepe that it is with dza vadzimu. What
unites everything clearly is the women's singing, which on matepe exists as a
definite song line for every song, quite unlike dza vadzimu."

Z: "These questions come from my experiences playing the mbira dzavadzimu
where there is 'kushaura-kutsinhira' dynamics. In your opinion does this
same 'kushaura-kutsinhira' rhythmic interplay exist in matepe parts coming
together?"

A.T.: "Yes, but I don't think they use these words, and the concept is not nearly so
fixed. Any version of a song seems to be able to serve as a starter part."

Z: "Thanks for anything that might shed light on how matepe parts fit! The
video footage of Saini Murira and his group is so great to watch. By the
way, who are the other players in this video? Is Saini Madera among them?"

A.T.: "I don't remember all the names, but Madera had already gone, more's the pity. Two
other players I remember were Garaji (Garage) and Thomas Dzamwarira, who was a DC's
policeman with whom I travelled around."

So much thanks to Andrew Tracey for taking the time to answer these questions, this is great information! Now those of us who have learned these parts off of his transcriptions, should all get together from all far flung corners one of these days and try to fit them together one of these days! Who'll be at Zimfest?

Blessings,

Zack
zigzag
 
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Re: Andrew Tracey: matepe article and video Q and A's

Postby Joel on Tue Jul 03, 2012 8:17 pm

Awesome, Zach! Thanks for taking the time to ask those questions! That really was very helpful in understanding some of the questions of matepe.
With love and gratitude,
Joel Laviolette
User avatar
Joel
Site Admin
 
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Location: Austin, TX


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