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During the time of white colonization and Christian missionary work in Zimbabwe there was a significant decline in traditional music Then in the 1960s along with emerging Zimbabwean nationalism and world-wide recognition of black culture there was a new recognition and valuing of traditional Shona and Ndebele music the two main tribal groups in Zimbabwe The classic instrument of Zimbabwe is the mbira The mbira has been in use by the Shona people since at least the Monomotapa dynasty of the 16th and 17th centuries It usually consists of 22 metal keys or lamellas which are fastened at one end to a wooden resonator body though number of keys can vary from 8 to over 50 The free protruding ends of the lamellas are plucked with the thumb of the left hand and the thumb and index finger of the right hand An entire genre of music developed around the mbira which includes subtypes based on instrument variations customs of playing song texts and musical functions A major characteristic of mbira playing is similar to that of other musical genres in other parts of Africa - an artistic technique called interlocking of parts by individual players The musical product is such that individual parts cannot be separated out but must be considered as a totality It would therefore not be possible to transcribe separate parts for a mbira performance simply by listening to the music Another characteristic of mbira music is its cyclic character This means each song has a particular formula that is repeated over and over To Western ears this can sound monotonous however each repetition includes slight variations that are evident only to trained listeners Thus a skilled player is judged by how well he incorporates his variations into the repetitions There are many instrument variations of the mbira each with its own name and function but all are called mbira for simplicity One of the best known is the mbira
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