Also:       mwakwa      mwakwati      marasha       

Contextual Associations

The manja is a concussion-block idophone of the Shona people of Zimbabwe. Also known as mwakwati, makwa and marasha, the sound of the manja is an integral part of the shangara and jerusarema social dance styles of Mashonaland, the homeland of Zimbabwe’s majority Shona peoples. This manja is decorated with a striped pattern created by application of a hot iron.


A manja is made by splitting lengthwise a block of wood. The centers of the two new faces thus created are then gouged out to form depressions or troughs. The resulting resonance of the clappers is determined by the thickness of the walls of the troughs. The exterior shape of the clappers can be carved to a desired form and surface designs can be added by carving (as in the manja pictured here) or burned on with a hot iron. A hole is drilled in one end of each clapper through which a length of twine passes to connect the two halves.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The performer holds one clapper in each hand and forcefully crashes their hollowed-out faces together. This concussive action results in a loud and resonant sound. For the jerusarema dance two dancers typically perform manja as part of the choreography. Each plays a distinct rhythm different from that of the other but which interlock to create a short, syncopated rhythmic phrase that can be repeated many times. The rhythm created on the manja replicates the hand clapping that is also common in this dance.


The most dramatic change that has happened to the manja came with the introduction of lumber to Zimbabwe. Milled lumber's consistent size and shape has caused traditional hollowed out manja, such as the one pictured here,to be replaced by two short lengths of lumber.

Bibliographic Citations

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

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

Turino, Thomas. 2000. Nationalists, Cosmopolitans, and Popular Music in Zimbabwe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Instrument Information


Continent: Africa

Region: East Africa

Nation: Zimbabwe

Formation: Shona

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

111.13 idiophone--concussion troughs or trough clappers: two or more are struck against each other

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: clapping

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: block - includes flat face with shallow depression

Sound objects per instrument: two sounded collectively

Resonator design: sonorous object itself is a general resonating space

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: concussing - direct

Sound exciting agent: colliding sonorous objects

Energy input motion by performer: clapping

Pitch of sound produced: indefinite pitch

Sound modification: none


11.9 in. length 3 in. greatest width

Primary Materials


Entry Author

Toby Austin, Roger Vetter