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The Mbira

LaShay (Student)

The mbira of the Shona people of Zimbabwe, consists of 22 to 28 metal keys mounted on a gwariva (hardwood soundboard) made from wood of the mubvamaropa tree (Pterocarpus angolensis).The mbira is often placed inside a large calabash resonator (deze). A mutsigo (small stick) is used to wedge the mbira securely inside the deze.
There is a buzz sound considered an essential part of the mbira sound, required to clear the mind of thoughts, and worries so that the music fills the minds of both musicians and listeners. Many different mbira tunings are used, and each group of villages typically has its own tuning.
Two examples of Mbira tuning are:
    The Nyamaropa considered the oldest and most representative in Shona culture It emphasizes togetherness through music, creating polyrhythms through having two Mbira players at once. A single Mbira is considered incomplete for a performance.
    Katsanzaira, the highest pitch of the traditional mbira tunings. The name means “the gentle rain before the storm hits”. 
ArtifactMbiraCollectionAfrica RoomThe African American Museumat the England ManorShare