Simboti first came across mbira in 1968, when he was 16 years old. In those days he worked in a factory in Harare. At the time he was able to play about five pieces of mbira music, his friend told him "Let's go to a ceremony performed in Mondoro today because there will be an mbira master playing there." So he went to Mondoro with his friend. When Simboti entered to the house, Shona men calmly waited for this master around a hearth in a house. After a few minutes, the man who entered to that room was tall and clearly getting old. Simboti thought: "This man is so old that he must be a terrible mbira player." However, when the old man began to play his mbira, within five minutes Simboti received a strong shock, as if a spirit had entered the room. "This old man is dangerous...!" And Simboti immediately made up his mind to study under this old man. After having finished the performance, Simboti told the old man that he wanted to learn mbira from him. And the old man said "Come to my house next Saturday."


Mubayiwa Bandambira
© The University of Chicago Press "The Soul of Mbira"

This old man was Mubayiwa Bandambira known as "Legend of Mbira" in Zimbabwe now.

Simboti visited Mr.Bandambira at once on Saturday.Mr.Bandambira told Simboti to play him all the mbira songs he knew. When all of his performances were over, Mr.Bandambira rejected them all except one piece. A brief or modern piece of music is not the original way of mbira. By the way, the one piece that Mr. Bandambira accepted was "Taireva."

Bandambira traveled through Zimbabwe with his mbira and gathered many traditional songs. One of the only people who has published a book about mbira, Paul Berliner, writes in ”The soul of Mbira”that he felt that his study was over when he met Bandambira in Zimbabwe. Bandambira's personality and being was a perfect representation of the mbira instrument.

Simboti adored Bandambira and learned mbira intently. Because Simboti was an office worker in those days, he could only go to Bandambira's house when his duty on Friday was over. He would spend his weekends and Bandambira's house to study mbira and then on Monday resume his duty at the office.

Simboti once learned five pieces of new music at a time but was told to take things more slowly. When the next weekend arrived Simboti played for his teacher the result of his practice. Bandambira was surprised and impressed to see that Samboti had mastered all five songs. Great master Bandambira stared at Simboti wide-eyed.

Bandambira died the next year when Rhodesia became Zimbabwe in 1981. Simboti inherits the faith and knowledge of Bandambira and continues walking the same road in a traditional fashion. Simboti still recalls episodes concerning Bandambira when taking a rest from work. He often talks about Bandambira while staring into the distance, filled with nostalgia and happiness. He can never forget Bandambira.

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