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Chartwell Dutiro (1957-2019) – Bath Spa University

Personal statement

Chartwell Dutiro is a PhD student and a traditional Mbira Master. He is a musician, singer, song-writer, composer, author and teacher. Chartwell grew up in rural Zimbabwe and started playing the mbira when he was four.

The mbira is an ancient instrument, consisting of at least 22 iron keys mounted on a wooden soundboard and placed in a gourd (calabash) often played in all-night ritual ceremonies (bira). This ritual of calling the ancestral spirits for guidance has been carried out in Zimbabwe for centuries.

Academic qualifications

  • MMus Ethnomusicology

Thesis title

The Power of the Voices of the Ancestors: Mbira Music of Zimbabwe.

Research supervisors

Dr Amanda Bayley.

Research overview

This practice-based research is a creative engagement between myself as mbira player and facilitator of four case studies designed to support musicking in open spaces. My role is to facilitate collaboration through dialogue, exploring the heritage of musical and dance languages in rehearsal and performance. The creative process will trace how musicians influence each other through improvisation. Combining instruments in new ways is an approach to intercultural music-making that has the potential to transform musicians and audiences. The submission will comprise live, recorded performances and studio performances on CD and documentary film, with accompanying documentation and written thesis.

Mbira functions as a catalyst to connect, learn and change. An emphasis on integration with empathy rather than appropriation allows musicians to construct a shared meaning of what music and musicking is, while identifying the criteria by which our collective new music is going to be evaluated, including issues of ownership and quality control. The role of mbira within the deep, spiritual Shona culture of Zimbabwe makes it a powerful potential medium for building bridges and making connections between people and cultures. The ethnomusicologist, Paul Berliner, describes ‘the elusive nature of mbira… Its sound is penetrating and warm at the same time, immediately capturing the involvement of the listeners and drawing them into its mood’ (1978/1993).

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