15.03.12 Clan Mbira 2012 - Highland Perthshire, Scotland
This was the seventh year running that Chartwell and the mbirists brought a piece of Zimbabwe to the tiny village of Wester Caputh, just on the edge of Highland Perthshire, Scotland. For some it was an annual voyage and somewhat of a family reunion; for others, like myself, a first time welcome into a cosy bunkhouse and the warmth of my fellow players.
The long weekend, which ran from Thursday 23rd to Monday 27th February, saw expert tuition from Chartwell and from Emily Bryant, and a chance for mbira players of all levels to learn from each other, try singing and hosho, and have our instruments tweaked and tuned as well.
Delicious vegetarian cuisine was once again provided by Robin, enabling us to sit and eat together each lunchtime and evening, augmenting the family atmosphere. On Saturday night tribute was paid to our location with a meal of haggis (a favourite of Chartwell’s) and the tiny living room played host to some very squashed ceilidh dancing.
Every evening saw long mbira sessions, beginning with popular tunes giving all the chance to play together. As the night progressed the more practised players would don their gourds and play fast and complex cadences, others joining in singing, dancing or simply nodding off to the peaceful rhythms, offering a deep experience of the music to all.
Despite its overt Zimbabwean identity, the Shona music sits well in Scottish surroundings, a country with an ancient history rooted in the land, its spirits and ancestry - still palpable in mountain settings such as Caputh - which I think Chartwell would agree is not dissimilar to the spirit of the mbira (my own Celtic name offers up its own similarity).
Those four days left participants with new songs learned and an improved ability to play and sing along with others, but moreover with a feeling of deep contentment, something rare in modern life. For me, it was a sense that this is what we are supposed to be doing – talking together, eating together, making music together.
At the close of Clan Mbira, rather than feeling bereft at departing, there was an air of positivity and anticipation, everyone looking forward to upcoming events throughout the year at which we will meet and play together again…