What is a Mbira?

Mbira, Percussion Musical Instrument

Also called the Thumb Piano, the African Mbira has great religious and social significance at religious ceremonies etc. A number of beliefs are associated with this percussion instrument especially in Zimbabwe.
What is the Mbira?

The Mbira is a lamellaphone with a series of thin metal plates or tongues which are attached at one end and free on the other so that the player can pluck the free end which vibrates and creates sound.

Look & Features of the Mbira

The Mbira is made of a hardwood sound board which holds anywhere between 22 and 52 thin metal plates or tongues. These metal plates are of varied lengths and are arranged in two or three layers on this wood board.

Perhaps, the most noteable feature of a Mbira’s construction is that the longest metal plates are placed right in the center of the board while the shorter ones are on the side. This way, the higher notes are able to sound and radiate outwards.

Shells may be used as reinforcements and attached to create additional sounds.

To Play the Mbira

The Mbira can be played by a group of players forming an ensemble. The players can play together by plucking each metal tongue with the thumb and the first finger of each hand.

Connect with the Spirits: It is believed by some communities that the music created by the Mbira can help to connect with the spirits.

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