• Temba T. Rugwiji University of Pretoria


The Hebrew Bible depicts that music and dance formed part of worship and reverence of Yahweh in which various musical instruments were played during ancient biblical times. In the modern post-biblical world, music and dance characterise every context of human existence either in moments of love, joy, celebration, victory, sorrow or reverence. In Zimbabwe, music — which is usually accompanied by dance — serves various purposes such as solidarity towards or remonstration against the land reform, despondency against corruption, celebration, giving hope to the sick, worship as in the church or appeasing the dead by those who are culturally-entrenched. Two fundamental questions need to be answered in this article: 1) What was the significance of music and dance in ancient Israel? 2) What is the significance of music and dance in Zimbabwe? In response to the above questions, this essay engages into dialogue the following three contestations. First, texts of music, musical instruments and dance in the Hebrew Bible are discussed in view of their spiritual significance in ancient Israel. Second, this study analyses music and dance from a faith perspective because it appears for the majority of Gospel musicians the biblical text plays a critical role in composing their songs. Third, this article examines music and dance in view of the spirituality which derives from various genres by Zimbabwean musicians in general. In its entirety, this article attempts to show that the Zimbabwean society draws some spirituality from music and dance when devastated by political, cultural or socio-economic crises.


Adams, D 1971. Congregational dancing in Christian worship. Vallejo: The Enabling Company.

Albridge, D 1995. Spirituality, hope and music therapy in palliative care, The Arts in Psychotherapy 22/2:103–109.

Bailey, L M 1984. The use of songs in music therapy with cancer patients and their families, Music Therapy 4/1:5–17.

Battle, J A 2000. Scriptural singing in the church, WRS Journal 7/2:12–17.

Braun, J 2002. Music in ancient Israel/Palestine: archaeological, written and comparative sources. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans.

Bulla, F 2015. Life in the Holy City of Johane Marange, The Sunday Mail (26 July 2015).

Burgh, T W 2006. Listening to the artifacts: music culture in ancient Palestine. New York: T & T Clark International.

Chikowero, M 2008. Our people Father, they haven’t learned yet: Music and postcolonial identities in Zimbabwe, 1980–2000, Journal of Southern African Studies 34/1:145–160.

Chitando, E 2002. Music in Zimbabwe (Review essay), Zambezia XXIX/i:82–91.

Cone, J H 1991. The spirituals and the blues. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Curtis, M E 1997. Ancient psalms and modern worship, Bibliotheca Sacra 153:285–96.

Eyre, B 2001. Playing with fire: fear and self-censorship in Zimbabwean music. Report: World Forum on Music and Censorship, Freemuse.

Finesin, S B 1926. Musical instruments in OT, HUCA 3:21–75.

Fontein, J 2006. The silence of Great Zimbabwe: contested landscapes and the power of heritage. Harare: Weaver.

Gelfand, M 1959. Shona ritual. Cape Town: Juta & Co. Ltd.

_______ 1962. Shona religion. Juta & Co. Ltd.

_______ 1977. The spiritual beliefs of the Shona. Gweru: Mambo Press.

Gunda, R M 2010. The Bible and homosexuality in Zimbabwe: A socio-historical analysis of the political, socio-cultural and Christian arguments in the homosexual public debate with special reference to the use of the Bible. Bible in Africa Studies. Bamberg: Bamberg University Press.

Hiatt, J 1986. Spirituality, medicine, and healing, Southern Medical Journal 79/6: 736–743.

Hodge, C 1964. A commentary on the epistle to the Ephesians. London: Banner of Truth Trust.

Hussain, Z 2009. Hip-hop and the HIV church, Insideout 54:11.

Jackson, H 2002. AIDS Africa: A continent in crisis. Harare: SAfAIDS.

Kupe, T 2003. The meanings of music: Media representations of popular music in Zimbabwe, African Identities 1/2:187–196.

Lipe, W A 2002. Beyond therapy: Music, spirituality and health in human experience: A review of literature, Journal of Music Therapy XXXIX/3:209–240.

Manley, M J 1986. A biblical bass for church music. Bulawayo: Baptist Publishing House.

Mapuranga, T and Chitando. E 2006. Songs of healing and regeneration: Pentecostal gospel music in Zimbabwe, Religion and Theology 13/1:72–89

Masoga, M A 2015. Personal communication.

Mawere, M, Sagiya, E E and Mubaya, T R 2012. Convergence of diverse religions at Zimbabwe heritage sites: The case of Great Zimbabwe National Monument, International Research Journal of Arts and Social Sciences 1/2:22–31.

Miller, D 2007. Richland Hills & instrumental music: A plea to reconsider. Montgomery: Apologetics Press.

Mitchell, T C 1992. The music of the Old Testament reconsidered, Palestine Exploration Quarterly 124:124–143.

Mlambo, O B 2015. The role of music in the age of HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe. Paper delivered at Codesria 14, Dakar, Senegal. 08–12 June 2015.

Mushawevato, P 2015. Dembo’s son charms veterans, The Sunday Mail (14 June 2015), p.3.

Music Committee, 1976. Baptist hymnal in Shona. Harare: Baptist Mission of Zimbabwe.

Muutuki, J M2013. Covenant in relation to justice and righteousness in Isaiah 42:1–9. PhD thesis. Stellenbosch: Stellenbosch University.

Ngara, C and Porath, M 2004. Shona culture of Zimbabwe’s views of giftedness, High Ability Studies 15/2:189–209.

Perrott, D V 1969. Teach yourself Swahili. London: The English University Press.

Raitt, A T 1977. A theology of exile. Philadelphia: Fortress.

Riessman, C K 1993. Narrative analysis. Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage.

Ross, L 1994. Spiritual aspects of nursing, Journal of Advanced Nursing 19:439–447.

Rugwiji, T T 2012. Reading the exodus liberation motif in the modern post-biblical world: the Zimbabwean society and the reality of oppression. Saarbrucken: LAP Lambert Academic Publishing.

_______ 2014. Reading circumcision as an identity marker (Gn 17:9–14): contemporary perspectives on male genital mutilation amongst Xhosa communities in South Africa, Journal for Semitics 23/1:237–263.

Sanders, J A 1961. The Dead Sea psalms scroll. New York: Cornell University Press.

Schmidt, H 1997. Healing wounds of war: memories of violence and the making of history in Zimbabwe’s most recent past, Journal of Southern African Studies 23/2:301–310.

Schurer, E 1995. A history of the Jewish people in the time of Jesus Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Hendrickson.

Shansky, C 2012. Spirituality and synagogue Music: Case study of two synagogue music ensembles, Research & Issues in Music Education 10/1:1–14.

Sheil, K 2006. Body, dance and worship, McMaster Journal of Theology and Ministry 7:23–32.

Sheler, J L 2001. Drugs, scalpel ... and faith? Doctors are noticing the power of prayer, U.S. News and World Reporter, pp. 46–47.

Steiner, M T 2015. Personal communication.

Taylor, M F 1967. A time to dance: Symbolic movement in worship. Philadelphia: United Church Press.

Thorsén, S-M 2004. Sounds of change – social and political features of music in Africa. Stockholm: Sida Studies.

“Vapostori members attend biraâ€, The Sunday Mail 26 July 2015, p.2.

Ver Beek, K A 2000. Spirituality: a development taboo, Development in Practice 10/1:31–43.

Back Isssues