Hidden Talent Of Visually Impaired Witness Masasa

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In the small village of Shorobe, just about 30 kilometres from tourism hub of Maun there is a musical gem and legend who has remained largely undiscovered for over half a century.

In a heartfelt interview, Witness Masasa a veteran segaba of mbira player (thumb piano), shared his journey, filled with love for his craft, challenges and an unshakeable belief in the power of music.

“I am doing this out of the love of the craft. I have been doing this for over 50 years, but I could not pursue this as a career because of timing and circumstances,” Masasa explained.  His words reflected a lifetime of devotion, undeterred by the many hurdles he has faced.

One of the most significant challenges Masasa has faced is his visual impairment. Despite his incredible talent, he could not advance to the annual President’s Day national competitions due to accessibility issues that come with his condition. Navigating unfamiliar environments without assistance has often proved too difficult, limiting his opportunities to share his music with a wider audience.

“Although I won the regional Presidential art competitions three times, I could not proceed to compete at the national level because I needed someone to assist me due to my visual impairment,” he shared.

Masasa’s music is not merely a collection of notes and rhythms but a profound expression of his inner world. “All the songs I play come from a deep place. I don’t compose the music; it comes to me like a whisper. Sometimes I dream of a song and wake up with the melody in my heart, knowing I must play it,” he revealed. His music is a gift, one that he believes is divinely inspired. “Some of these things you don’t choose. God puts them in your heart to share them.”

At a recent event at the Shorobe Boat Station, Masasa’s performance left an indelible mark on those in attendance. From the first note, his music transported listeners to an ethereal realm, touching their hearts and minds.

His natural talent speaks to a fundamental chord in the human experience, reflecting resilience, vulnerability, and deep spiritual insight. His songs resonate with a profound connection to the spirit, uniting those who hear them in a shared experience of beauty and emotion.

Masasa’s journey as a musician began in humble circumstances. He lost his eyesight at an early age, before he even started playing instruments. He began teaching himself to play the segaba at an early age of 9 in 1967, drawing inspiration and techniques from artists within his community but cited a key figure named Esekai from Seronga, who he learnt the most from. Over time, he developed his unique style, creating a personalised mbira sound that has become his signature.

Despite his long career, Masasa has no recordings of his music. His compositions remain a living art form, shared with the women, men, and children of his village, bringing joy and unity through his performances. The joyous ululations that follow his songs are a testament to the profound impact his music has on his community.

“While I love the craft, I would love to do it full time as a career at this particular junction in my life. I believe the time is now and would love to spread my wings and show more people my craft,” Masasa expressed, his voice filled with hope and determination.

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