Southern African Music Resource Site Overview
The information listed in this Web site reflects the state of research and the number of web sites on Southern African music as of December 1999. I will try to update the site as new information becomes available. Suggestions for bibliography inclusions, new links, and dead links are welcome. Please send e-mail to:

This Web site is intended to be a resource for those interested in the music of southern Africa. The countries covered (to varying degrees) are: Angola, Botswana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. There are also sections for general information; however, it must be noted that the focus of this site is on Zimbabwe, for which I have collected both the most academic references, and the most web links.

While I attempted searches for topics extending beyond the Zimbabwean mbira itself, a large amount of my information relates to the mbira. This is partly due to my own interests, but I suspect that there is also more information available on the mbira than any other musical instrument in Zimbabwe--except possibly marimba. This is understandable for a number of reasons, including the importance of mbira within Zimbabwean culture (religious significance for example), and the influence it has had on Zimbabwean popular music, such as the chimurenga guitar bands. Mbira is among the most popular African musics in the West (especially English-speaking countries...possibly due to Zimbabwe's colonial connection to England). Also, because of the influence mbira has had on poplar music in Zimbabwe, it can attract people with different interests: those interested in "authentic" or "traditional" music, or those interested in more "popular" music can both find their way to mbira.

Other instruments in Zimbabwe, such as the Chipendani (mouth-bow), the Ngororombe pan-pipes, and others have not received as much attention. Furthermore, the Shona people, who are the primary players of mbira (dza Vadzimu), are the most numerous language/cultural group in Zimbabwe, and receive more attention than other groups, such as those who speak Ndebele, for example. I will discuss the difficulties presented by these language groups later in this essay.

The information I gathered for the other Southern African countries was of varying degrees of success. For example, there are numerous web sites devoted to Madagascar's music, but few English language articles. I have included a link to a web site that has an extensive bibliography on the music, but most of those articles are in French. Often the language connection to the West, depending on the various colonial histories, has a great effect on the information that is available. So Zimbabwe's connection to English speakers has resulted in a plethora of English resources on the subject, while Madagascar's connection to the French has led to a large number of French resources. It should be noted that much of Madagascar's cultural history is closely connected to Indonesia, as well as Southern Africa. I have included it primarily for geographical reasons (plus I love the music of the marovany and valiha, so was glad to cover it).

For some of the other countries, political situations have prevented much information from being available. Angola and Mozambique have been relatively closed off to researchers from the West, resulting in less exposure and fewer resources. In some cases the music of such countries is just beginning to find an audience in the West. However, I am sure there is more information available than I have listed on this site for these countries; the lack of references is only partly due to political reasons. The reason for such little information on South Africa is entirely different; there is too much information for me to sort through. The prospect of actually trying to tackle all of the literature and web resources on South Africa was just too daunting. That should bean entire site to itself. I provided just a few links, to at least help those searching for information get a start. Possibly at some point in the future I will attempt to add more information for those countries that are lacking.

One of the difficulties I had with this project was in how to organize and understand the distribution of musical practices throughout Southern Africa. I have used political boundaries as my method of organizing the information (i.e. by country), but the borders in Southern Africa, while having a real effect on the way of life there, were mainly (completely?) implemented by colonial powers in the past century or so (I'm not so good on my history with all of this, so please excuse my vagueness and any errors I make). An alternate way to categorize the people of southern Africa is by language groups. These language groups do not necessarily fall within the political boundaries, and have a significant influence on the way of life of the people.

For example, the ngororombe pan-pie is played in North Eastern Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Malawi. Or, the mbira-sometimes specified as dzaVadzimu-is played in many areas of Zimbabwe, but other types of mbiras can be found in Zimbabwe as well. I chose to classify by country because that is usually the way things are specified (although most academic articles generally note the language group as well as the country). It is important to keep this issue in mind, however, when looking at and reading the materials. I have included a link to a web site that explains language groups in detail, world-wide, which can help explain this complicated issue. I have also included a link to an article that reviews the language groups of Southern Africa specifically.

If anyone has any essays, or information that they feel is relevant to the site, I would really appreciate it being sent. I will gladly post it. If there are any corrections to the information provided in this site, please let me know at Also, if anyone would like to update me on new articles or books, etc., coming out that relate to these subjects, let me know and I will add the information. I will appreciate any help in keeping this site as timely and relevant as possible.

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