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Thu, Jul 27


Sankofa Video, Books, & Café

The Mbira, An African Musical Tradition: Book Talk + Demonstration

Learn all about the sacred Zimbabwean instrument the mbira with Māhealani Uchiyama, founder, and director of the Māhea Uchiyama Center for International Dance in Berkeley, CA!

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The Mbira, An African Musical Tradition: Book Talk + Demonstration
The Mbira, An African Musical Tradition: Book Talk + Demonstration

Time & Location

Jul 27, 2023, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM

Sankofa Video, Books, & Café, 2714 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001, USA


About The Event

Watch Conversation HERE

About the book:

An introductory guide to the mbira: the spiritual traditions, historical perspectives, and practical applications of a sacred Zimbabwean instrument.

In this accessible overview steeped in history and tradition, teacher and student Māhealani Uchiyama offers insights for learning about the mbira and actively engaging with it in an informed and respectful way.

The mbira is made of a wooden soundboard and hammered metal keys. It can be played solo or accompanied by singing, clapping, dancing, percussion, or other mbira. In traditional Zimbabwean culture, the mbira is a spiritual practice that bridges worlds: for example, the realm of the ancestors and of healing energies with the worlds of the living.

Supplemented with 32 images and glossary of terms, this book helps readers understand:

  • The mbira’s special roles within the lamellaphone instrument family
  • Relevant Zimbabwean and African cultural, historical, and spiritual perspectives
  • Ways the mbira can become a connection point for people severed from their African roots
  • How appropriation and commodification have contributed to the mbira’s popularization around the world
  • Codes of conduct for respectfully playing the mbira and for taking it up as a practice

About the author:

Māhealani Uchiyama is an award-winning dancer, musician, composer, choreographer, recording artist, author, and teacher. She is the founder and director of the Māhea Uchiyama Center for International Dance in Berkeley and is Kumu Hula of Hālau KaUaTuahine. She is the creator and director of the Kāpili Polynesian Dance and Music Workshops. She holds a BA in Dance Ethnology and an MA in Pacific Islands Studies from the University of Hawaiʻi. She trained in traditional hula and Tahitian ʻori under the late Kumu Hula (hula master) Joseph Kamōha’i Kahā’ulelio.

A teacher and performer of Polynesian music and dance for over 40 years, her passion and mastery of Hawaiian and Tahitian performing arts has led to numerous concert tours to Tahiti, New Zealand and the islands of Hawai’i. Major musical appearances include the Hollywood Bowl, Te Papa Tongareva National Museum of New Zealand, and the San Francisco Opera House. She has taught workshops throughout the United States and Mexico. She was professor of Hawaiian Language at Stanford University.

Most recently, Ms. Uchiyama has been an instructor of Hawaiian Dance at Gambia Academy. In addition to performances for MUCID, Ms. Uchiyama has recently produced the Mitambo Festival of Shona Music at Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center and the Full series at the Berkeley Film Archive, featuring artists such as Hālau o Keikialiʻi, Miriam Peretz and Melanie DeMore


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