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Title: Southern Mozambique--Four Chigowilo tunes; Celestea Nyakutowo, Rosa Samwe, and Evalina Gwambe, chigowilo (field recording by Hugh Tracey--see Andrew Tracey entry in Bibliography). Label: SWP Records. Format: CD. Catalogue#: SWP 021. Track: 1.

Title: Southern Mozambique--Two Chigowilo tunes; Tamare Mosi, Fomisane Mapiki, and/or Elena Gwambe, chigowilo (field recording by Hugh Tracey--see Andrew Tracey entry in Bibliography). Label: SWP Records. Format: CD. Catalogue#: SWP 021. Track: 2.

Contextual Associations

The chigufe is a spherical edge aerophone (vessel flute) of the Shona and Ndau peoples of Zimbabwe. Such ocarinas are found elsewhere in Eastern Africa, for example amongst the Chopi of Mozambique who call it chigowilo. It is popular with children and is sometimes played for entertainment in pairs or larger groups.


This chigufe is made from a dried and cleaned out mutamba fruit shell, or damba (a name often used for this instrument). The Ndau sometimes make the chigufe of clay. It has one large blowhole and four smaller fingerholes around it (see detail image).

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The player holds the spherical gourd in both hands against his or her chin at such an angle that a ribbon airstream passing through his or her lips is directed against an edge of the blowhole. Thumbs and fingers of both hands cover and uncover the fingerholes in various combinations to produce a few different pitches. The audio clips illustrate two performance techniques applied to this instrument. In the first audio example three Chopi girls each playing a chigowilo coordinate in the hochet style to produce melodic patterns involving more pitches than are available on any one of the differently-sized flutes. A single performer is heard in the second example coordinating tones sounded on the chigowilo with high-register vocal notes, again in hocket style. This later technique is also utilized in panpipe ensembles throughout this region of Africa.


The chigufe is possibly a formalization of the chiporiwo, or mouth whistle. By cupping the hands in front of the chin with the thumb and index finger positioned to form a ridge just below the lower lip, a note can be produced by directing an airstream across the ridge. Further notes can be produced by opening one or two fingers. Whether or not it was actually inspired by the chiporiwo, there is no way of telling when the chigufe came into existence.

Bibliographic Citations

Ellert. H. 1984. The Material Culture of Zimbabwe. Harare: Longman Zimbabwe.

Huwiler, Kurt. 1995. Musical Instruments of Africa. Harare: Mambo Press.

Jones, Claire 1992. Making Musical Musical Instruments of Zimbabwe Past and Present. Harare: Academic Books Zimbabwe.

Sayce, Katherine, ed. 1987. s.v. "Music, Traditional." Encyclopedia Zimbabwe. Harare: Quest Publishing.

Tracey, Andrew. 2003. Southern Mozambique. CD with liner notes. SWP Records SWP 021.


Instrument Information


Continent: Africa

Region: East Africa

Nation: Zimbabwe

Formation: Shona

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

421.13 aerophone--vessel flute (without distinct beak): the body of the pipe is not tubular but vessel-shaped; with fingerholes

Design and Playing Features

Category: aerophone

Air cavity design: globular vessel

Source and direction of airstream: player exhalation through mouth into air cavity; unidirectional

Energy transducer that activates sound: beveled edge in wall of instrument, directly blown against

Means of modifying shape and dimensions of standing wave in air cavity: opening fingerholes to reduce space or shorten length of standing wave in air cavity

Overblowing utilization: not used

Pitch production: multiple pitches - changing length/shape of standing wave within single cavity with fingerholes


2.6 in. diameter

Primary Materials

shell - fruit

Entry Author

Toby Austin, Roger Vetter