|Tshikona could be referred to as the Venda 'national dance'. It was performed on all important occasions, such as the installation of a new ruler, the commemoration of a ruler's death (dzumo), and the sacrificial rites at the graves of a ruler's ancestors. It was also played on Sundays in the urban areas by Venda who had organised themselves into dance-teams with managers, musical directors, and other officials.
Tshikona expressed the value of the largest social group to which a Venda felt he or she belonged. Its performance involved the largest number of people, and its music incorporated the largest number of tones in any single piece of Venda music involving more than one or two players. Tshikona was valuable and beautiful to the Venda, not only because of the quantity of people and tones involved, but because of the quality of the relationships that were established between people and tones whenever it was performed. Tshikona music could be produced only when twenty or more men blew differently tuned end-blown reed-pipes with a precision that depended on holding one's own part as well as blending with others, and at least four women played different drums in polyrhythmic harmony.
The rhythmic patterns were based on four slow dotted crotchet beats, and one of the most characteristic was:
This accompanied the 'walking' step with which the dancers moved round in the circle; but other rhythms could be required to accompany different steps that were 'shown' to the dancers by the musical director (maluselo). Some of these steps were representational and others were abstract, and most were difficult to master: as with all Venda music, nothing was done in a haphazard fashion, and the sight of a team dancing in perfect accord was very impressive. Representational steps such as u kumbuludza n (gathering ground-nuts), u zwala mbeu (sowing seeds) and mapfe (baboons) were clearly related to horticultural aspects of the first-fruit ceremony at which the national dance was performed. The ceremony was also a sacrifice to the spirits of the ancestors of the chief's lineage, and some of the abstract steps may have reminded people of their illustrious ancestors, as did the sacred spears (mapfumo), which served as a 'register' of ancestors: for these abstract steps were often named after a deceased chief who either invented the step himself, or in whose honour it was invented.
The pattern performed by the fifteen highest-pitched pipes (transposed down a semi-tone) was as follows: