Even though the Shona and Ndebele outnumber all the other ethnic groups, these other smaller groups continue to practice their own culture and traditions. For instance, the Shangwe have Jichi, the Kalanga have Amabhiza and the Ndau identify with Muchongoyo. Whereas mbakumba, jerusarema and shangara are usually identified as Shona traditional music and dances, amabhiza, amantshomane and isitshikitsha are associated with the Ndebele people.

Traditional musical instruments

A commonality in most Zimbabwean traditional music genres is that they are accompanied by the drum, known as ngoma in Shona and ingungu in IsiNdebele. The drums are just as varied as the genres and they come in different sizes and shapes. In most cases, the bigger drums are played using sticks while the smaller ones are played using open palms. There are some exceptions, however, such as the small drum played to accompany Amabhiza, which is played using one hand as the other hand will be rubbing/scratching the drum using a stick to produce an unusual screeching sound. Muchongoyo music is also accompanied by peculiar drums. These have animal skin on both ends of the drum, which are played using sticks, regardless of the size of the drum. The size of the stick is however, proportionate to the size of the drum.

Besides drums, traditional Zimbabwean music has a variety of percussive instruments, including shakers (hosho), leg rattles (magaga, magavhu and amahlayi) and wooden clappers (makwa). Mbira musicians also use chikorodzi, a notched stick scraped by another stick, as well as kanyemba, an instrument made of many bamboo strips that are stripped together and filled with small seeds for percussion.

Arguably the most famous of the Zimbabwean musical instruments is the mbira. There are several types of mbiras found in Zimbabwe, which are played during both religious and secular activities[ii].  Of the many types of mbiras found in Zimbabwe, the most common are the nhare (telephone) or mbira dzavadzimu (the ancestors’ mbira) and the nyunga-nyunga mbira. The mbira dzavadzimu has between 22 and 24 keys and is known for its ability to invoke the spirit (Matiure, 2011). The nyunga-nyunga mbira is a 15-key mbira and has been widely popularised by Zimbabwe’s education sector, where it is taught from primary school up to university level. Some of the Shona language names for the range of mbiras in Zimbabwe include njari, matepe, mbira dzavandau, karimba/nyunganyunga and matepe/madebe dza mhondoro/hera. 

Some traditional Zimbabwean instruments are facing the danger of extinction, such as chizambi, chipendani, tsuri, mukwati wenyere. 


Mbende Jerusarema Dance Festival

A festival that celebrates the Jerusarema Mbende dance that was proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage for Humanity by UNESCO in 2005. Mbende Jerusarema Dance was proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity with Murewa Culture Centre acting at the reference place for safeguarding purposes. It is performed by the community of Murewa and Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe (UMP) in the North Eastern Districts of Zimbabwe. The ancient fertility dance was called dembe or mbende, a Shona word for “mole” which signified fertility and hence the dance became very popular with the locals.

Christian missionaries who came to the area disapproved the sexual explicitly dance but the community/practitioners fearing for its extinction, decided to Christian the dance Jerusarema, a Shona pronunciation of Jerusalem (The Holy City). The dance is practiced under the auspices of Chief Mangwende and Nyajina of Murewa and Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe (UMP) respectively survived the Christian onslaught until today. UNESCO, in its wisdom and in order to safeguard the dance, proclaimed it a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. A realization which also paved the way for the establishment of the Safeguarding Committee and the festival that was started by National Arts Council of Zimbabwe in 2008 as an annual event.

The Safeguarding Committee was established in 2007 to spearhead the protection of the Mbende Jerusarema dance. Since its adoption of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of The Intangible Cultural Heritage, the Government of Zimbabwe facilitated the research of the dance and in 2005 the Mbende Jerusarema became the first Zimbabwean Dance to be proclaimed a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Hence a Safeguarding Committee was established and is chaired by one of the most practical cultural custodians, Headman Zihute of the Magwende clan.

The main objectives of Jerusarema Mbende Dance Festival are to:

  •     To safeguard the Mbende Jerusarema Dance through the organization of training workshops from Master Practitioners and School teachers involved in dance.
  •     To organize annual dance festivals, concert and exhibitions in order to create employment for dance groups.
  •     To organize exchange programmes with other districts and international groups at least once a year.
  •     To screen and register Master Practitioners who will train teachers and school children the skills of the dance.

To appoint researchers of the Mbende Jerusarema dance through the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe

Jikinya Dance Festival

What Is Jikinya?

This is a dance festival for primary school pupils. The festival aims at preserving traditional dances especially among the young Zimbabweans at primary school level. The festival is open to all primary schools in the country.


Zimbabwe is a country endowed with a rich and diverse cultural heritage. This heritage is embodied in both tangible and intangible forms such as dance, and many other forms. Dances are not merely performed for entertainment but at all functions and ceremonies around the entire life of a people. Because of urbanization, globalisation and acculturation this heritage is in danger of disappearing due to lack of appreciation, promotion and recognition. There is need to preserve, revitalize and promote dance forms in Zimbabwe.

It is therefore against this background that National Arts Council of Zimbabwe saw the need to preserve and promote traditional dance forms through the education system by organising programmes and activities that involve appreciation, participating and consumption by children/students, hence introducing Jikinya Dance Festival.

Jikinya Dance Festival showcases various traditional dances by primary school pupils from around the country. The festival is held annually and aims at encouraging children to appreciate and perform Zimbabwean traditional dances thus promoting and preserving Zimbabwe’s rich cultural intangible heritage which is faced with disappearance.

National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) inaugurated Jikinya Dance Festival in 2002 and the festival is mainly sponsored by Delta Corporation and Culture Fund Trust. The major partner is National Association of Primary School Heads (NAPH).


The running theme for the festival is “Building Zimbabwe through Dance”. However, an annual theme is picked and is in line with the running theme. These yearly festival themes are aimed at focusing attention and promoting specific dance types.


Jikinya is held at three basic levels in the schools. These are; District, Provincial and National. However, in the district festivals, schools are free to hold zone or other festivals inorder for them to come up with district winners. Each district will be able to send one school to the provincial festival and each province will send one school to the national finals. All other festivals that take place prior to the provincial festivals are organised by the National Association of Primary Heads with help from organizations interested in the programme.


The schools are guided by the following rules in the Jikinya Dance Festival:
• The dances should reflect some authentic traditional aspects of a particular ethnic, religious or cultural group in Zimbabwe
• Any drama or theatrical performance will not be taken as a dance for the purposes of participating in the festival by schools
• The number of pupils shall be limited to a maximum of thirteen(13) for each participating school
• Dance teachers and coaches are not permitted on the stage when children are performing
• A dance performance shall not exceed ten minutes
• All schools participating at the national festival shall get a certificate
• The top three schools will receive prize money and a trophy


• All primary schools in Zimbabwe registered with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
• Only primary school pupils are allowed to participate in this festiva