Dancing with the Diaspora

Magical Inhambane Zavala Tofo Mozambique

The tropical 3000km coastline of Mozambique has always attracted many visitors. Ilha de Mozambique in Nampula in the North is a world heritage site documenting the early meeting of Arab and African culture and trade.


Inhambane on the coast of Mozambique is the most visited province in the country with one million visitors annually, lured primarily by the pristine oceans and the resident marine megafauna in the oceans of Tofo.

Tofo, situated 450 kilometres up the North coast of Mozambique can be accessed by road from Maputo with a daily bus, or the international airport in the nearby town Inhambane. An enormous number of visitors from all over the world come to Tofo to scuba, snorkel and swim with the unique underwater creatures

One of the longest running business in Tofo, Fatima's Nest which has been bringing visitors to the area since 1989, contributes directly to social upliftment through developing talent and supporting local orphanages and old age homes.

The indigenous people of that region are the Chopi people. Their cultural expression – the timbila musical instrument – is an iconic symbol representing all of Mozambique.

Interview with director of the casa de cultuur in Ihambane, Abel Afonso Manga.

Here in Ihambane we have various tourist activities for instance culture, dancing, the Timbila as our cultural heitrage and many tourists come to see how we make the timbila and visit Zavala to witness that.

A large part of tourism is around the beaches. We have Tofo, Praiaa de Barra, Vilankulos – it's a big tourist destination this province.

To expand tourism there are some provincial bodies, like the Casa de Culturo which organises various events – we have the Timbila Festival, which we hold at the end of the August, the Festival is in Zavala and a big festival that a lot of tourists go to see. The festival in Tofo which attracts a lot of toursists to explore the gastronomy, traditional dance, local music – those are the big festivals we have in Inhambane – but we also have smaller ones in our districts. – in Vilanculos, the Beach Fest – these attract tourists, and causes them to return again. They make this an attractive destination.

Chopi festival august.

For the Timbila festival in Zavala there is an association that is responsible for working wit the professionals from the ministry of culture, to direct and run it – the ministry also sponsors the festival to help the association to capitalise on it.

Tourism and businesses are working together. We are holding art exhibitions … it helps them to sell, and there are various other benefits including training of local people.

Annual Timbila festivals takes place at the end of August in Zavala district, a Unesco world heritage site. Timbila is supported by Gil Vicente live music venue and the One Ocean New Years music festival in Tofo which opens and closes with the traditional music of the region.

The hospitality industry is also a fast developing sector providing extensive opportunity and employment. Delicious seafood, ice cold local beer, an abundance of cashews and coconuts, warm ocean and fine weather year round (other than cyclone Dineo which hit the coast on February 15th ) are the makings of a paradise beach experience for anyone.

Chopi musicians by Hugh Tracey

“I have devoted most of my holidays from official duties to visiting those areas where the Chopi are to be found, and taking notes in the hope of learning all I could before making gramophone records.” Chopi play large orchestras of Timbila orchestras and orchestral dances called Mijodo. A Ngodo is an orchestral dance in 9 to 11 movements. “They speak with one voice and move with one spirit by mystical participation in the compelling music.” … “The orchestral ground is developed by the composer himself and by his fellow musicians as they play. The composition becomes communal with the players of the various pitches of Timbila (treble, alto, tenor, base and double bass) improving their own parts. They all conform to the master pattern set by the composer.

Southern Mozambique 1943 – 63: Music of Chopi, Gitonga, Bonga, Tswa, Tsonga, Sena, Nyungwe and Ndau

Opening track features young girls on gourd flutes (ocarinas) recorded in the Quissoca District. “These ocarinas are made from the hard spherical flute of the mutamba orange tree and have 3 holes, one for blowing and 2 for fingering. Notes can also be easily lipped down in pitch. Small girls from 5 or 6 start to play these home-made 3 note instruments for amusement, usually in duet with one chigowilo, always smaller, thus higher pitched.” On track 3 we hear 13 xylophones led by Shambini, recorded at Quissoco. Mtsitso are introductory movements played by the orchestra alone, without song or dance, before the dancers enter. On track 7 we hear the mzeno movement from the timbila dance, it is considered to be the climax. Hugh Tracey notes, “Komakomu's sparkling playing style is in evidence, playing kudala, single note melody on the high notes, or doubling the song in octaves.” On tracsk 8 to 10 we heard mandowa dance played on mbira recorded at Nova Mambone District. The mandowa acrobatic tumbling dance uses four drums. On track 16 we hear the music of the Tswa people, who live North of the Chopi and play an almost identical xylophone called muhambi. On track 19 we hear the hexatonic mbira performed by Jose Machokole, from Save River Mozambique. This is one of the very few African mbiras with 3 ranks or manuals of keys and a 3 octave range, played with 2 fingers and 2 thumbs…


Visits to Maputo and Tofo made possible by accommodation sponsorship from Fatima's Backpackers mozambiquebackpackers.com

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