Mbira

mbira
If there is a musical instrument that could represent the country of Zimbabwe, it would be the mbira. Because traditional culture is highly regarded by the Shona, the significance of the mbira musical heritage is recognized by many Zimbabweans. The mbira has a long history among the Shona, being associated with some of the oldest known music from the ancient kingdoms of Zimbabwe. The instrument plays a prominent role in many types of ceremonies including traditional rituals for communicating with ancestral spirits.

The mbira is an idiophone with metal reeds attached to a board which are plucked when played. The instrument is similar to the kalimba from Zambia that was introduced into jazz music in the U.S. in the early 1970s and is often improperly referred to as a thumb piano. There are at least eight different types of mbiras found in Zimbabwe, having from eight to fifty-four keys.

Mbira music continues to influence contemporary artists in Zimbabwe and musicians performing African music around the world Mbira pieces are often played on one or two mbiras, but consist of a multitude of musical lines. Translating the compositions for marimba requires extensive experience to decipher the melodic and rhythmic components of each song and to create interlocking marimba parts which accurately reflect the original version.