Hosho are a type of rattles that form the traditional rhythmic accompaniment to most mbira music, helping musicians and dancers keep time and rhythm. They’re  made from gourds that naturally grow in a convenient handled shape, which are then hollowed out and filled with very hard seeds called hota. Similar rattles can be made using straight sticks attached to a round gourd or even a tin can, and in fact this type is more common in certain areas than natural gourd hosho.


Although the playing technique can seem simple to the casual observer, anyone who has tried to play them will tell you there’s more to these rattles than meets the eye. Getting a clean sound from the hosho and keeping time faithfully while complex polyrhythms are being played around you on all sides, much less throwing in varied rhythms of your own, all while bearing the main responsibility for any tempo changes or problems with the groove, can be a tall order. Having a skilled hosho player in your village or in your group is vital to having good quality mbira music for parties and ceremonies.

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