Chopi people

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This article is about an ethnic group. For a Bantu language, see Chopi language. For an aromatic plant, see Zanthoxylum piperitum.

The Chopi are an ethnic group of Mozambique. They have traditionally lived primarily in the Zavala region of southern Mozambique, in the Inhambane Province. They traditionally lived a life of subsistence agriculture, traditionally living a rural existence, although many were displaced or killed in the civil war that followed Mozambique's liberation from Portuguese colonial rule in 1975. In addition, drought forced many away from their homeland and into the nation's cities.

The Chopi speak Chichopi, a tonal language in the Bantu family, with many also speaking chiTonga and Portuguese as secondary languages. Their neighbors include the Shangaan ethnic group who live to the west, in the Gaza Province, and who invaded Chopi territory in the 19th century. Historically, some Chopi were enslaved and others became migrant laborers in South Africa.

The Chopi identify culturally, as a people, with the elephant.

Music and dance[edit]

They are famous for their traditional music, the most famous of their instruments being the mbila (plural: timbila), a xylophone played in large groups. This music was proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2005.[1]

Other instruments used by the Chopi include panpipes, whistles, animal horns, rattles, drums of various sizes, musical bows, and a globular flute with three holes made from the dried shell of the nkuso fruit (bush orange).


The Chopi's traditional foods include cassava (manioc) and cashew nuts. They also produce a number of traditional alcoholic beverages, which are produced from fermented tangerines or cashews.


  • 1980 - The Chopi Timbila Dance. Directed by Andrew Tracey.
  • Chopi Music of Mozambique. Directed by Ron Hallis.[2]
  • Banguza Timbila. Directed by Ron Hallis.[3]
  • 1994 - A Spirit Here Today: A Scrapbook of Chopi Village Music. Directed by Gei Zantzinger. Filmed in 1973.


  • Tracey, Hugh (1970). Chopi Musicians: Their Music, Poetry, and Instruments. 1st ed., reprinted, with a new introduction. London and New York: Oxford University Press. First published in 1948. ISBN 0-19-724182-4.

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See also[edit]