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The Mbira is an ancient African instrument consisting

of reed or metal keys mounted over a bridge on a hardwood sound-board. Typically, an external buzzing mechanism adds complexity to the instrument's sound. Known by different regional names, numerous varieties of Mbira are popular throughout Africa. The Mbira commonly serves as a solo instrument with vocal accompaniment, but it can also be played in small ensembles. 

In Zimbabwe, there are several types of Mbira, ranging in numbers of keys from eight to fifty-two. The type represented here is the Mbira  Nyunga Nyunga (Shona Language for "Sparkle Sparkle") Musicians play the smallest instruments with two thumbs; the larger instruments, with thumbs and one of two index fingers. For amplifications, musicians stabilize their instruments inside large gourd resonators decorated with shells and. more recently, bottle tops, which add a vibrating quality to the rich sound mix. Gourd rattles called hosho commonly provide rhythmic accompaniment.

Jeke (Jack) Tapera introduced the Mbira Nyunga Nyunga in the 1960s from Tete province of Mozambique to Kwanongoma College of African music (now United College of Music) in Bulawayo. Two keys were then added to make fifteen (Chirimumimba, 2007), in two rows. . Key pitch radiates out from the center, rather than from left to right. dc v Zimbabwe's Dumisani Maraire originated mbira nyunga nyunga number notation. The upper row keys (from left) are keys 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14 while the bottom row keys are notated as 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 15. Maraire brought awareness of this instrument to the United States when he came to the University of Washington as a visiting artist from 1968-1972.


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