Mbira Camp

***Unfortunately, the July 2019 session has been cancelled. We are working on organizing a January 2020 session in Kauai, Hawaii – Contact Us if you are interested.

Ahhh! A whole week of healing music and community! MBIRA offers a Summer Mbira Camp in California: total immersion in traditional Shona mbira music of Zimbabwe, with great depth and respect for ancient tradition. Past mbira campers have come from all over North America, Australia, South America, Africa, Asia and Europe. Enroll now.

Mbira Camp at the Beach 2008
Mbira Camp at the Beach 2008

Mbira Camp Dates

The next Mbira Camp dates are: 20-26 July 2019 – Saturday morning through Friday 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. Some years MBIRA is able to bring a co-teacher for camp from Zimbabwe.

Mbira Camp 2015
Mbira Camp 2015

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

Typical Mbira Camp Day

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 Camp 2011
Mbira Camp 2011
  • 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
Mbira Camp Day at the Redwoods 2012
Mbira Camp Day at the Redwoods 2012

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.  Sometimes MBIRA offers camps in Hawaii, Argentina, and Zimbabwe.  Past camp locations also include Bali and Germany.

Meals and Sleeping at Camp

While some mbira players will commute to Camp, sleeping accommodations are available at Mbira Camp for no additional fee.  Choose between  a shared sleeping room (co-ed), or an outdoor tent (bring your own).

Hawaii Mbira Camp 2010
Hawaii Mbira Camp 2010

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).

Motel rooms available within easy walking distance include Super 8 at 1619 University Ave, Berkeley (510-841-3844) or Rodeway Inn at 1461 University Ave, Berkeley (510-848-3840).

Meals are vegetarian. Mbira Camp is known for its great chefs! Carmen will be cooking for this camp, and her cooking has many fans!

Cost and enrollment

Mbira Camp 2001
Mbira Camp 2001

The non-refundable deposit to hold your place in Mbira Camp is $412, due April 1st.

Total cost of Mbira Camp is:

  • $773 if full fee paid in full by June 15th, or
  • $824 after June 15.
  • $515 for 4 days of camp (must include first or last day)
  • $144 for one day of camp, or camp by the day

Your payment includes all meals, instruction, and activities.  Sleeping space available at no extra charge.

Advance enrollment for Mbira Camp is required. ***Remember you get a $50 discount if your FULL payment is postmarked or paid online by June 15th, 2019.

Enrollment is on a “first come” basis, so pay your deposit (or full fee) as soon as possible – your place in camp is not reserved until your payment is received. The balance of payment is due no later than your first day of Camp. You can choose to pay online, or with a check or USD money order payable to MBIRA, when you submit your Mbira Camp Enrollment Form. Payment is non-refundable, unless another student takes your place (occasionally there is a waiting list).

Mbira Camp Enrollment Form

Argentina Mbira Camp 2011
Argentina Mbira Camp 2011

Camp Recording Policy

  • 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.
  • We very much hope that you agree not to copy MBIRA albums 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.
  • 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 Store, and the money goes to the musicians on the CD/Download. Save up and bring money for these, or listen before you come, as they are an important part of the teaching method.


More Mbira Camp information, including schedule, “to bring” list and directions will be sent to enrolled Campers. Questions? Contact us