Skip to main content

Mbira’s Restless Dance

An Archive of Improvisation

Growing out of the collaborative research of an American ethnomusicologist and Zimbabwean musician, Paul F. Berliner and Cosmas Magaya’s Mbira’s Restless Dance documents the repertory for a keyboard instrument known generally as mbira. At the heart of this work lies the analysis of the improvisatory processes that propel mbira music’s magnificent creativity.

Mbira’s Restless Dance is written to be played. This two-volume, spiral-bound set features musical transcriptions of thirty-nine compositions and variations, annotated with the master player’s advice on technique and performance, his notes and observations, and commentary by Berliner. Enhanced with extensive website audiovisuals, Mbira’s Restless Dance is in effect a series of masterclasses with Magaya, suitable for experienced mbira players and those learning the fundamentals.

Together with Berliner's The Art of Mbira, in which he provides an indispensable historical and cultural guide to mbira in a changing world, Mbira's Restless Dance breaks new ground in the depth and specificity of its exploration of an African musical tradition, and in the entwining of the authors’ collaborative voices. It is a testament to the powerful relationship between music and social life—and the rewards of lifelong musical study, performance, and friendship.

912 pages | 2 spiral bound volumes, 597 musical examples | 8 1/2 x 11 | © 2020

Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology

African Studies

Music: Ethnomusicology, General Music, Music Editions


“A major landmark in ethnomusicology. These books represent decades of systematic and highly focused research by one of the most astute, tenacious, perceptive, respected, and inspiring scholars in the field. There is a wealth of information here, systematically organized and presented, with few precedents in music scholarship.”

Eric Charry, Wesleyan University, author of "Mande Music: Traditional and Modern Music of the Maninka and Mandinka of Western Africa"

“Stunning. I can think of no other work like it in the history of ethnomusicology, and very few that approach it in contemporary humanistic or musical scholarship. Its contribution transcends the author’s disciplinary affiliations in magisterial ways. There is, simply, nothing else like this in the literature. It owns its own category. It creates a new category of musical ethnography. And might I say, there is no example in the ethnomusicological literature of collaborative research on this level, either. I came away with a concrete understanding of the stunning complexity of the aural texture of mbira music, the playfulness of its performance practices, the seriousness of its pedagogical traditions, and the obviousness of the claim that Magaya is an artist on the level of a Charlie Parker or a Ravi Shankar—one of the world’s great musicians, a living treasure for the Shona people, and someone who has contributed enormously to ethnomusicology through his long collaboration with Berliner. This is a unique, powerful, singular work. Berliner is a master of ethnomusicological scholarship in exactly the same sense that Magaya is a master of the mbira. To have such a document of his career’s work is astounding. It shows what our discipline could be, and what we could achieve. It’s a real magnum opus.”

Aaron A. Fox, Columbia University. author of "Real Country: Music and Language in Working-Class Culture"

"Berliner and Magaya have been working on this project since the 1990s, and it is unlikely that the world will ever see a deeper dive into the beauties and mysterious nuances of mbira. These volumes mark an extraordinary collaboration between meticulous scholarship and virtuoso musicianship, and also, the fruit of a profound and enduring friendship."

Banning Eyre | Afropop Worldwide

Table of Contents

Volume I


Guide to Mbira Notation

1          Bangiza (1)
2          Bangiza (2)
3          Bangiza (3)
4          Bangiza (4)
5          Bangiza (5)
6          Bayawabaya
7          Chakwi
8          Chaminuka ndiMambo
9          Chaminuka, We
10        Chandasarira
11        Chipembere
12        Chipindura
13        Dande
14        Dangurangu
15        Gorekore
16        Karigamombe
17        Kuzanga
18        Mahororo
19        Mandarindari
20        Mukatiende

Volume II

21        Mutamba
22        Muzoriwa
23        Nhemamusasa
24        Nhemamusasa yekutanga
25        Nhemamusasa yepasi
26        Nhimutimu (1)
27        Nhimutimu (2)
28        Nyamamusango
29        Nyamaropa
30        Nyamaropa Chipembere
31        Nyamaropa yepasi
32        Nyuchi
33        Shumba
34        Shumba yaNgwasha
35        Taireva (1)
36        Taireva (2)
37        Taireva (3)
38        Taireva (4)
39        Tondobayana
40        A Comparative View of Artists’ Composition Treatments

Bangiza (1)
Bangiza (2)
Bangiza (3)
Bangiza (4)
Bangiza (5)
Nhemamusasa yekutanga
Nhemamusasa yepasi
Nyamaropa Chipembere


Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press