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rattletree.com • View topic - Discussion

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Detailed look at the music...

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Postby mrmbira on Tue Dec 23, 2008 10:48 am

thanks so much for setting this up. After the holidays i will begin building my Matepe and will have more to add at that point. I just can't help smiling when i hear a recording of matepe; it moves me in ways that mbira dzavidzimu doesn't usually affect me... not sure why. I look forward to playing the tune you posted. i hope you will continue this project. Do you think a light weight mahogany would make a good board for a matepe? peace, Russ
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Re: Matepe lessons thread

Postby Joel on Tue Dec 23, 2008 12:26 pm

Hi Russ,
I suggest something even lighter-I use cedar here in the US. The mutiti wood used in Matepe is a lot softer than mukwa or mahogony. I plan on continuing this project for as long as it takes to get this amazing music up and running among those of us interested. There is a huge repertoire that I have been listening to on the ILAM recordings that just floors me. I really really really want to get deeper into what the heck is going on with this music. It is absolutely freaking intense. I'm planning on doing another podcast that will focus on some of my recent revelations from listening to these field recordings (from 1958!). If ANYONE has anything to offer in terms of other playing styles or patterns, please feel free to post here!

A quick teaser:
I was listening the other day and for the first time in my life, I heard one matepe playing a 'six phrase' version of the song (six groups of eight eighth notes) while the other people were playing in the regular 'four phrase' thing. I have never in my life heard that on any mbira...have YOU?
With love and gratitude,
Joel Laviolette
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Re: Matepe lessons thread

Postby gawest on Tue Dec 23, 2008 8:20 pm

Hi Joel (and everyone else) - While I try to connect with Chaka Chawasarira to commission a matepe from him (I don't have the metal-working skills to build my own), I am spending my time listening and trying to discern the nature of this music, particularly regarding how it differs from dzaVadzimu repertory.

Your note about the overlapping six and four phrase versions has piqued my interest. Where did you hear this? is it in a readily-available recording? I'd love to hear how they do that.

While I'm at it, I think it would be really valuable to compile a discography and bibliography on the matepe. Maybe everyone can chip in what they are aware of.

The recordings I know are (including your recordings):

Joel Laviolette - Ndiro YeMidzimu (Mhumhi records)
Chaka Chawasarira - Magore Kore (Mhumhi records)
Chaka Chawasarira - Matepe Mbira 2000 (MBIRA)
Various - Other Musics of Zimbabwe (Sharp Wood Records)

Does anyone know of other recordings or tracks that feature the matepe?
How about articles or other resources about the instrument, its music, and its tradition?

Thanks to everyone (especially Joel)

All my best,

Glenn
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Re: Matepe lessons thread

Postby Joel on Tue Dec 23, 2008 11:08 pm

Hi Glenn,
This is exciting to see the interest. If you have a contact for Chaka Chawasarira, will you email that to me? There seem to be several people interested in purchasing matepe, and he really builds excelent instruments. Maybe we can get several shipped over.

I have heard that Chartwell's newest CD has one or two matepe songs on it. Also, for clarification-my CD only has two matepe songs, and the rest are dzaVadzimu. Chawasariras matepe CD is beautiful, AND I highly recommend the ILAM recordings of matepe music-the recordings I have are three matepe playing together and that is the stuff that is just blowing me away-and the singing!!! HOLY S&^T!. I have received permission from ILAM to feature their music on the podcasts, so once things have settled down in the next couple weeks, I'll post that specific thing I was talking about with the 6 phrase thing. It was on an ILAM CD.
With love and gratitude,
Joel Laviolette
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Re: Matepe lessons thread

Postby Joel on Tue Dec 23, 2008 11:10 pm

Also, the Soul of Mbira CD has a matepe track on it...
With love and gratitude,
Joel Laviolette
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Re: Matepe lessons thread

Postby Ndikiye on Tue Dec 30, 2008 12:11 pm

This is what we need to be able to play matepe. If you can please add more of such resources online.

You will find this is only a tip and the beginning of the this song. It is a very long one with numerous variations. Chaka plays it very well and the only people I have heard play it that way are Chaka and my late father. Speaking to Chaka some years ago he revealed to me he got this tune from my father. However, Chaka has many parts that he does not play that I got from my father and other matepe players.


There are other excellent variations of this song we have been collecting on video footage.

Also the best wood is a soft tree called 'mutsvedza bveni'. The tree has a white smooth bark that makes it difficult for a baboon to climb it. 'Bveni' means baboon in Shona. 'Tsvedza' refers to something very slippery. There is not other tree I have seen to rival this one when making matepe 'gomero'. There is a second best but not superior to this tree.
Hope it helps. Ndikiye
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Re: Matepe lessons thread

Postby Joel on Tue Dec 30, 2008 4:40 pm

Hi Ndikiye,
Thanks for joining the conversation! I believe mutiti is the 'musvedza bveni' tree-like how 'mukwa' is also called 'mubva maropa'. I believe it is mutiti that Chawasarira uses on the matepe, but it has been many years since he told me the name of the wood and I may have forgotten. I remember he was saying it is the same wood used for one of the specific drums that are played.

I know a few other variations of this song which I'll be happy to post as well, but here's my terms: If one person out there can email me a video or recording of them playing the piece as I teach it, then I'll post the next piece and we'll just keep going on in that way. I think I know about 10 matepe songs with a few variations to each piece. If you know any variations or songs and want to share them, I would love to hear some other takes on the music. I have heard some really amazing playing other than just Chawasarira's style, but Chawasarira is the only teacher I have studied with at this point. Want to share any of that video? I'm more than happy to put the effort into trying to learn some variations off a video.

Do you know of any other living matepe masters in Zimbabwe now?
With love and gratitude,
Joel Laviolette
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Re: Matepe lessons thread

Postby Joel on Tue Dec 30, 2008 4:42 pm

On second thought, if someone doesn't have the technology or time to email me 'proof' that they are learning, I'll just take their word for it. I just don't want to spend a lot of time transcribing parts if no one is actually learning the songs..
Take care,
Joel
With love and gratitude,
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Re: Matepe lessons thread

Postby Ndikiye on Mon Jan 05, 2009 5:05 pm

Dear Joel
I will try to post them when i learn how to do it ICT wise. I am not very clever.
I know the tree that Chaka refers to and the one I mentioned very well. Chaka does not use the one I referred to. It is no longer easy to find that tree except in some few areas. When you cut that tree you wait for about one to two hours to be able to find out if it is the correct tree. The wrong tree will develop cracks. So even with the tree i mentioned you have to get the right tree.

As for videos I will try some time to sort a few. When I listened to Chaka's music i liked the way he played this song. He plays the instrument with good fluency. However, there are plenty of other songs by some other very able musicians including very young ones. The best mbira builder I know is ill and possibly dead by now. Even my father would buy his mbira although my father taught him to play. I have not seen a mbira built as neat and as good as by that man. He built one for me but was only giving instructions to his children as he was ill. That one bulids mbiras. I also have Chaka's mbiras too so in all I have 3 sets.

Matepe is very hard to learn and more players will be able to play it only if they have access to the resources. That is why I thanked you for placing the mbira thread online so that we could also use it. I should admit some of the best mbira players have died and the young ones cannot learn it as it is expensive to buy the mbira instrument itself.

On recording, which guitar pick up can I buy and what recording instruments do i need to buy? I would like to improve on the quality of the recording and also to be able to connect an amplifier to my matepe. can you please help?
Lastly keep on the good work I mentioned and have more lesson threads. If we note you are a committed mbira player/learner we will do more to help you.
Happy New Year.
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Re: Matepe lessons thread

Postby Joel on Mon Jan 05, 2009 5:47 pm

Hi Kuda,
Now I remember you-didn't you get in touch with me a long while back about playing matepe for a class session there in the UK-for your students or to learn a piece or something? My memory is hazy and I don't seem to have the old emails anymore...Remind me of the details...edit: I believe you were wanting a copy of the Chawasarira CD, was that right?

In any case, as for a pickup, check out the Instrument Builders thread in this very forum-I talk about what I use for electric mbiras there:
viewforum.php?f=13

I still use the Oyster pickup for my matepe, though and the sound is great-especially through a bass amp.

Where is your father located? Can you tell me the village and the name of your father and this man who builds great matepe? You can email directly if you prefer: joel@rattletree.com

I am planning on going back to Zim in August, but I will only be able to go for one month this time. The plan is to go to the area where the matepe players are and try and find the style that I want to learn still being played.

Here are two clips that shows the style that I'm talking about. These are excerpts of 'Siti' from an ILAM recording done in the late '50s by the great Hugh Tracey. These are from the CD #212 in the catalog:

The first track is one matepe and then the mic moves over to another matepe starting up on a different part for the same song.

http://www.rattletree.com/sounds/Siti.mp3

The next one is all three matepe together and the mic moving between parts and singers:

http://www.rattletree.com/sounds/Siti-01.mp3
With love and gratitude,
Joel Laviolette
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