Also:       magahvu      mirara      

Contextual Associations

Magagada, also called magahvu and mirara, are leg-rattle idiophones used by Shona dancers and musicians in Zimbabwe. They are used in any musical situation that features dancing. While similar in sound to the Shona rattle called hosho, they serve a less structural purpose to the music and rather serve to enhance the movements of the dancer.


Each magagada consists of three rows of five dried matamba fruit shells filled with hota plant seeds. Each matamba shell has a hole drilled in its top and bottom. After the seeds are inserted, a wooden rod, serving as a sort of spine, is passed through the holes in the five shells that make up a row. Three such rows are connected to one another by tying together the ends of their protruding spines with braided mupfuti bark fiber. The rattles are tied to the dancers legs with additional lengths of braided fiber. 

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

One magagada rattle is tied to each of a dancer’s legs below their knees. The rhythmic stomping action of the dancer’s movements thrusts the seeds against the inside walls of the fruit shells to create clear articulations that give movement a sonic dimension. The resulting rhythmic patterns dovetail into the other sonic elements of the performance produced on drums, flutes and/or clappers, and by participants singing and handclapping.


The magagada is thought to have been, at least initially, inspired by the natural sound of dried matamba fruit shells.

Bibliographic Citations

Berliner, Paul F. 1981. The Soul of Mbira—Music and Traditions of the Shona People of Zimbabwe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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

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

Kaemmer, John E.  1998. “Music of the Shona of Zimbabwe.” In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music v.1. ed. Ruth M. Stone. New York: Garland Publishing, pp. 744-758.

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)

112.13 idiophone--vessel rattles: rattling objects enclosed in a vessel strike against each other or against the walls of the vessel, or usually against both

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: stomping - leg

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: hollow spheroid vessel - closed

Sound objects per instrument: multiple sounded collectively

Resonator design: sonorous object itself is a general resonating space

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: striking - indirect

Sound exciting agent: beater/s - pellet/s, seed/s, bead/s inside closed vessel/s

Energy input motion by performer: stomping - leg

Pitch of sound produced: indefinite pitch

Sound modification: none


1.2–1. 5 in. average diameter (shells) 6 in. average length (each stack of 5 shells) 4 in. average width (3 stacks of shells)

Primary Materials

shell - fruit
cord - plant fiber

Entry Author

Toby Austin, Roger Vetter