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    Mbira Camp

    This year (2017), MBIRA offers a Summer Mbira Camp in California.

    Mbira Camp dates are: 12-18 August 2017.

    The concept of Mbira Camp is total immersion in traditional Shona mbira music of Zimbabwe, day and evening.

    Mbira Camps are led by Erica Azim, who has played and loved Shona mbira music since 1970, and has shared her passion for mbira with thousands of mbira students from all over the world. She has developed a teaching method designed specifically for the non-Zimbabwean student who desires to experience traditional Shona mbira music in its fullest depth.

    UPDATE: Samaita's tour has been postponed to a future year for several reasons, including the current US visa climate, and Africans with valid visas being recently turned away and deported after being treated abusively in US airports. So, Samaita will not be co-teaching camp this year.

    In light of current events, the focus of the 2017 Mbira Camp will be the piece Tadzungaira ('A Prayer to End All Suffering'), although other pieces will also be taught. We will play the piece in both nyamaropa tuning and mavembe/gandanga tuning (Samaita Vitalis Botsa and Forward Kwenda style).

    Mbira Camp is sponsored by the non-profit organization MBIRA, devoted to the preservation and support of traditional Shona mbira music of Zimbabwe.

    The typical Mbira Camp day includes mbira lessons in the morning, a break after lunch, an optional related activity in the afternoon (hosho lesson, mbira dance, cultural presentation, etc) followed by time for the group to play mbira together, and the full group gathering in the evening for mbira singing and playing together. Time is also set aside for students to have the opportunity to play one-on-one with the teacher, which is an important part of traditional mbira learning.

    Afternoon and evening activities are optional, and taking breaks is encouraged when needed. However, allowing yourself to be a bit overwhelmed opens you to learning in the less-controlled, soaking it up, way a child does, and mbira students often find themselves making incredible progress with aspects of the music they were stuck on in other learning contexts, such as lessons.

    Mbira Camp activities and instruction may include:

    • mbira lessons in pairs and groups
    • individual mbira lessons
    • mbira theory: how to improvise correctly within the mbira tradition
    • learning to hear more of the interlocking melodies in the mbira music you play, singing lines the mbira is playing, and volume variations
    • how to know when to play variations (and when not to)
    • styles of kutsinhira playing
    • playing together, the lock of kushaura and kutsinhira parts
    • where the beat of the hosho rattles fits with kushaura and kutsinhira
    • learning to hear resultant lines when playing together, singing them, and bringing them out in your playing
    • learning to sing traditional mbira lyrics
    • listening to recordings of Shona mbira players
    • mbira-style hosho (gourd rattles which accompany mbira)
    • learning about the traditional context of mbira in Shona culture and religion
    • mbira dance
    • exploring mbira tunings and learning how to tune your mbira
    • playing mbira individually, with a master teacher playing the other part

    When you arrive at camp, please mention your preference to include any of the above activities. Also, campers often play together in 2's and 3's informally, outside scheduled session/lesson times.

    Mbira lovers at every playing level are encouraged to attend, and previous Mbira Camps have included new-first-timers, beginning, intermediate, and advanced players. New beginners may purchase an instrument from MBIRA in advance to use at Camp, or choose one at Camp.


    The summer Mbira Camp location is Erica Azim's big house and garden in Berkeley, California.

    Cost and enrollment

    The non-refundable deposit to hold your place in Mbira Camp is $400, which is due May 15th, 2017.

    Total cost of Mbira Camp is:

    • $750 if full fee paid in full by May 15th, or
    • $800 after May 15th.
    • $500 for 4 days of camp (must include first or last day)
    • $140 for one day of camp, or camp by the day

    Your payment includes all meals (Mbira Camp is known for its great chefs!), instruction, and activities, and sleeping bag space on futons in a shared room, or bring a tent (or see motel advice below).

    NEW PRIVATE ROOM OPTION - if you would like to rent a private room with full size bed for the camp week (or longer), or use a twin bed in a semi-private room, please inquire about rates by email.

    Advance enrollment for Mbira Camp is required. ***Remember you get a $50 discount if your FULL payment is postmarked or paid online by May 15th, 2017.

    Enrollment is on a "first come" basis, so send in your deposit as soon as possible. The balance of payment is due no later than your first day of Camp. Please make checks or US$ money orders payable to MBIRA, and send in with your Mbira Camp Enrollment Form. Payment is non-refundable, unless another student takes your place (occasionally there is a waiting list).

    Online Payment: you can pay online with Chase QuickPay if you have a bank account in the US, with no extra charge - just make a payment to MBIRA (erica@mbira.org) put your name, and do note the session you are paying for. If you prefer to pay through Paypal, you need to add 4% to your payment to cover the fee Paypal takes out before we receive it. For any type of online payment, please remember to email your enrollment form to erica@mbira.org

    Sleeping accomodations at Mbira Camp are choice of a shared sleeping room, or an outdoor tent (bring your own). Sleeping mats and sheets are provided for those sleeping in the shared room only, you must bring your own sleeping bag or blankets (a few blankets may be reserved if you can't bring yours). Meals are vegetarian. If you need a bed, email to book the available beds mentioned above, or look for available rooms in the camp neighborhood - these are easy walking distance: Super 8 at 1619 University Ave, Berkeley (510-841-3844) or Rodeway Inn at 1461 University Ave, Berkeley (510-848-3840).

    Mbira Camp Enrollment Form


    • You may audio record your individual and group lessons (audio ONLY, please, NO VIDEO allowed but of course you can video your own hands). You may not copy your recordings for anyone who did not attend the camp.
    • "Mbira Piece Intensives." Listening to recordings of many different musicians playing the piece you are learning is an important part of learning an improvisational style you did not grow up hearing. These intensive listening experiences are available from the MBIRA Recordings Library (see Mbira Piece Intensives), and the money goes to the musicians on the CD/Download. Save up and bring money for these, which are an essential part of the teaching method. "Student Series" recordings to practice together with are also helpful, though only available for a few pieces.

    We very much hope that you agree not to copy MBIRA recordings for anyone. Your friends can get them directly from MBIRA. The point is to get the money to the Zimbabwean musicians on the recordings, who are definitely poorer than your poorest friend. What is a relatively small amount of money for us is making a significant difference in the survival of many of the musicians receiving it.


    More Mbira Camp information, including schedule, "to bring" list and directions will be sent to enrolled Campers. Questions? Call 510-548-6053 or email erica@mbira.org.