The Shona & the Ngororombe
by Douglas Bishop

   The Shona people inhabit the largest section of central and eastern Zimbabwe. During the transcontinental migration of peoples from the north, the Shonas’ ancestors settled on the plateau located between the Zambesi and Limpopo rivers. Early on, hierarchically organized communities emerged, later followed by vast kingdoms such as Great Zimbabwe (13th - 15th century C.E.), Mutapa (15th - 18th century), Torwa (15th - 17th century C.E.) and Rozvi (17th - 19th century C.E.). The famous stone ruins of Great Zimbabwe near Masvingo are still an impressive reminder of those glorious Shona empires.

   The traditional musical instruments of the Shona include the drum (ngoma), thumb piano (mbira), wooden xylophone (marimba), rattle (hosho), kudu horn (hamwanda), panflute (ngororombe), mouthbow (chipendani) and voice (kuimba). The ngororombe (similar to the nyanga in Mozambique) is commonly played by a group of men standing in a circle, who alternate ngororombe notes with chanted words and other rhythmic sounds. This is reminiscent of the Andean ensembles, who divide the toyo (Andean bass siku) into two halves, each played by a different individual. A similar practice was observed in the southern USA among plantation slaves in the 18th and 19th centuries (see quills), and is also still found in Kursk province in Russia, where groups of women play the pan flute form of that region, the kugikly.