The Making of An Mbira

The mbira is a popular African instrument. Particularly in Zimbabwe, the mbira is used as a solo instrument as well as to accompany other musicians and dancers. Although it is also known as a "thumb piano," because one uses their thumbs to pluck the six metal strips which are keyed to particular notes, the mbira is actually in the percussion family.

While shopping one afternoon in a local drug store which also sells educational toys, I stumbled upon an mbira making kit. The materials included is the wood needed to make the outer box as well as the metal parts for the bridge and keys. Traditionally, the mbira is built from a wooden box, metal can, or calabash gourd. I thought it would be interesting to try and build an mbira and then learn how to play it. It is a project that is slowly taking on a life of its own, and therefore I am dedicating this section to the adventure of building, playing, and performing on the mbira, a simple instrument with a rich history and beautiful sound.

Here is my mbira-building diary.

And here are some mbira links acround the Web. Please be sure to let me know of any I have not included.

If you want to see some original mbira photos, click here.

Other features of this space will include sound clips, educational resources I will be developing, and information about various musical projects I plan on becoming involved with, as one of the few serious mbira players in Western Canada. So please be sure to check back often!

Special thanks go out to David Laks of Turtle-Frog Music, Inc, for devloping the Woodstock Collection Instrument Builder Mbira Kit, and introducing me, and many other children of various ages, to the simple beauty of building and playing the mbira.