The Herald (Harare)

30 January 2013

Zimbabwe: New Music Academy On Cards

A NEW academy of music is set to open its doors in March this year.The brainchild of Zimbabwe Music Crossroads director Mathias Bangure, the academy will offer a wide range of subjects ranging from basic mbira theory, drums and percussion, keyboard, guitar, bass, voice, mbira, marimba, rhythmic and body percussion, wind instruments such as trombone, trumpet and saxophones and dance.

All these courses are already being offered by various institutions, notably the Zimbabwe College of Music, which has been in existence since 1948 and whose products include former Hifa director Manuel Bagorro, soloist Jeanette Micklem, researcher Joyce Jenje-Makwenda, mbira players Dumi Maraire, Ephat Mujuru and Hope Masike, guitar prodigy Louis Mhlanga, drummer Jethro Shasha, jazz artistes Dumi Ngulube, Simangaliso Tutani and Prudence Katomeni-Mbofana and songbirds Plaxedes Wenyika and Tina Watyoka, to name but a few.

The former white schools such as Prince Edward and Churchill also played their part in nurturing Zimbabwe's abundant talent in the arts. Prince Edward has its own jazz school and band, whose products include the late Sam Mtukudzi and Josh Meck while Churchill is famed for its pipe band, whose origins date back to the colonial days.

The new academy should be up and running by March this year, said Bangure adding he was stepping up efforts to acquire suitable premises.

So what's so special about the Zimbabwe Music Crossroads academy?

In answer to the question, Bangure says the majority of the existing music colleges place too much emphasis on academic qualifications. Bangure believes academic qualifications should not take precedence over an artiste's natural talent, so the new academy will do away with paper qualifications for prospective students

"Academic qualifications, such as five O-Levels, should not stand in the way of an artiste's talent and growth. Our doors are open to anyone as long as they have a passion for music, can sing, dance or play any instrument. We have, however, placed an age limit of 35 for the certificate course," said Bangure in a recent interview.

To start with the academy will offer a certificate at the end of the course which will be spread over 12 months. Diplomas and degrees will follow as the college grows.

According to Bangure, the driving force behind the academy was to produce fully fledged artistes who can hold their own in the cut-throat music industry and not half-baked products.

Even the likes of award-winning Mokoomba, who have made inroads into the international arena, would be afforded the opportunity to sharpen their skills through refresher courses at the academy so that they continue to raise Zimbabwe's flag high.

"We not only send these groups to perform, but to also hold workshops whilst they are there so that they become the ambassadors of our music and culture to the outside world," said Bangure.

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