It is often an important instrument played at religious ceremonies, weddings, and other social gatherings. (Although some instruments, like the Mbira, have an additional rows of tongues, in which case not just the thumbs are used for plucking.) Tongues may be made small enough to play with individual fingers, hence the colloquial name "thumb piano". Both registers on the left side of the instrument are played with the left thumb. Trying to transmit mbira songs through notation goes back at least as far as Paul Berliner's The Soul of Mbira and Andrew Tracey's "How to Play the Mbira." There is no WMTA (World Mbira Teachers Association) certifying who is qualified to teach. The mbira dza vadzimu is very significant in Shona religion and culture, considered a sacred instrument by the Shona people. During these all-night ceremonies, people call upon the spirits to answer questions. This linear approach must be counteracted in order to learn to listen to mbira in a Shona way. Someone with more limited playing experience could be a perfect medium for a new student. In performance, the player holds the instrument in his hands and plucks the tongues with his thumbs and forefingers. She is also a Festival Coordinator for Zimfest, a Zimbabwean Music Festival held annually in North America that offers many opportunities to learn and listen to mbira. “Learning to play kalimba,” says Andrew Tracey, son of Hugh Tracey, who in the 1950’s created and gave the world a kalimba that the western ear could understand, “is best done by learning from someone who knows how to play kalimba.” Learn to play Zimbabwean mbira music, anywhere in the world. Njani mbira has 30 to 32 keys and was also originated from Zimbabwe particularly Masvingo and Makonde. [5] Similar instruments were reported to be used in Okpuje, Nsukka area of the south eastern part of Nigeria in the early 1900s. When taught to play a first song—often but not necessarily Kariga Mombe—they don't hear and feel inside the song they are attempting to play. The practicality of this note arrangement, with notes going up the scale in a right-left-right-left progression, is that modal 1-3-5 or 1-3-5-7 chords are made by playing adjacent tines. Musicians report that if the performer from whom they wish to learn is not interested in sharing his knowledge, they must be quick in “pinching” the mbira part before the performer notices them and, by shifting the position of the instrument on his lap, hides his fingers in his gourd resonator. Most of these are not step-by-step "lessons" but rather videos for those who can (and enjoy) learning by sitting next to an mbira player and looking over his or her shoulder. Are you planning to jumpstart your music career? [citation needed] Some conjecture that African lamellophones were derived from xylophones and marimbas. Tracey's design was modeled after the mbira nyunga nyunga and named 'Kalimba' after an ancient predecessor of the mbira family of instruments. There is broad consensus that with mbira visual learning is as important as aural, because it can be quite difficult (especially for those not familiar with them music) to identify which keys are actually being played when one is hearing the resultant parts that arise from the music. In the end credentials don't mean as much as trusting your gut. Historically, mbira tunings have not mapped exactly onto Western scales; it is not unusual for a seven-note sequence on a mbira to be "stretched" over a greater range of frequencies than a Western octave and for the intervals between notes to be different from those in a Western scale. "bira"). A mbira key produces a rich complex of overtones that varies from one instrument to another depending on its maker's intentions and accidents of fabrication, such that some instruments simply sound better when some notes of a familiar tuning are pushed. [7] Metal-tined instruments traveled all across the continent, becoming popular among the Shona of Zimbabwe (from which the word mbira comes) and other indigenous groups in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Tunings have often been idiosyncratic with variations over time and from one player to another. Muda will be the lead mbira … Play the mbira! The nyunga nyunga which normally has 15 keys, originated from Manicaland where it traditionally played the entertainment role during social gatherings and commemorations. Shona mbira listening, however, appears to be horizontal, with attention placed on dozens of simultaneous intertwining single note melodies. Mbira Transfiguration & Permanence", based in Harare, Zimbabwe, African musical instrument of the lamellophone family, "Kalimba" redirects here. Transcript. Other alternative tunings move the kalimba to non-modal scales (such as Middle-Eastern scales). The Hugh Tracey kalimbas are tuned diatonically in the key of G. The arrangement of the notes on the Hugh Tracey kalimba borrows from the typical scheme with the lowest notes in the center and the upper notes on the left and the right, with the notes in the ascending scale alternating strictly right-left and going outwards towards the two sides. [11][12], Lamellophones are instruments which have little tines, or "lamellae", which are played by plucking. Because a beginner is much more likely to be able to join in group playing by playing kushaura while those more experienced play kutsinhira, learning kushauras first makes sense. [28], The nhare has 23 to 24 keys and was originated from Zimbabwe. Grow out your nails on the 3 mbira playing thumbs/finger – you want to touch each key with both your nail and about 1 cm (0.4 inch) of your thumb/finger. The mbira originated in Southern Africa, and has long played an integral role in the traditions and cultural identity of Zimbabwe’s Shona people; some 11 million people strong in the country. There is a strong visual component to learning mbira. How to say mbira. How do you know if what you are being taught (or are seeing on YouTube) is the "right" way to play an mbira piece? This is a much harder question to address. Bottle caps, shells, or other objects ("machachara"[27]) are often affixed to the soundboard to create a buzzing sound when the instrument is played. I'm going to show you how to play the kalimba. Recently a Midlands State University (Gweru, Zimbabwe) lecturer in the department of music and musicology has suggested a letter notation; the upper keys as (from first left upper key) E, D, C, F, C, D, and E and the lower or bottom keys as (from the first lower key) A, G, F, A, F, C, D, and E. But the Maraire number notation has remained the internationally accepted system (Chirimumimba, 2007). 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. The Law of Mbira Within mbira playing communities, there is a pervasive notion of an “authentic” mbira dzaVadzimu (the mbira of the ancestors) performance practice, associated with a set of ethics which structurally inform discus- sion about the appropriate use of the instrument. There is also no AMP (Authentic Mbira Players) certification. Some mbira possess an extra key in the upper left register which is hit from below by the left index finger. These are the melodies which are sung and improvised upon on the mbira; without hearing them, the Western student cannot improvise in a Shona way. Google challenges people to play four traditional and modern songs including Nhemamusasa, Bangiza, Taireva and Chemutengure by hovering their mouse over the right keys when instructed. The mbira dzavadzimu can be used to play over one hundred songs, such as Kariga mombe. But most non-Shona people come to mbira with no or almost no experience of the music. How to pronounce mbira. Although mbira's popularity continues to grow in the West and in Japan, most of us still do not live near other mbira players or teachers. There is not even agreement on the "right" "first" kushaura to Nhemamusasa. Zimbabwe's Dumisani Maraire originated mbira nyunga nyunga number notation. Listen to the audio pronunciation in the Cambridge English Dictionary. In the near future we will present introductory mbira lessons. This includes a concern for precision and force in striking the mbira keys so as to bring out their true full sound, as well as a concern for rhythmic accuracy. Two keys were then added to make fifteen (Chirimumimba, 2007), in two rows. These skills first are developed by learning one or a few mbira pieces rather than a large repertory. They consist of a wooden board (often fitted with a resonator) with attached staggered metal tines, played by holding the instrument in the hands and plucking the tines with the thumbs (at minimum), the right forefinger (most mbira), and sometimes the left forefinger. A modern interpretation of the instrument was commercially produced and exported by ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracey from the 1950s onward, popularising similar instruments outside of Africa. [15] With the increased popularity of the mbira dzavadzimu in North America, Europe, and Japan in recent decades, Zimbabwean mbira makers have tended to tune their instruments more uniformly for export, but much variation is still found among mbira in their homeland. C major is a popular tuning, sold by multiple manufacturers. Each note of the kalimba can be tuned independently (unlike a guitar), so any scale, western or non-western, is possible, and traditional African scales are still accessible to this modern African instrument. The "Art of crafting and playing Mbira/Sansi, the finger-plucking traditional musical instrument in Malawi and Zimbabwe" was added to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2020.[1]. In order to play a musical instrument one must first learn how to navigate among its notes. Beyond your wildest dreams. Lamellophone in Afrika. The mbira dzavadzimu is frequently played at religious ceremonies and social gatherings called mapira (sing. Do you want to play traditional African music? You’ll have to learn how to play musical instruments and master the art of music production. Mapfumo's arrangements included numerous songs directly drawn from traditional mbira repertoire. From DC & Neil Gaiman, The Sandman arises only on Audible. There are many wonderful Shona mbira players with a lifetime of playing experience who may be perfect as a teacher for a Shona person yet be challenging for a non-Shona person. For over two decades, Magaya trained his son, Mudavanhu (Muda), on how to play and teach mbira. The second chapter of the animation sees a man making a mbira for the young girl, and the third sees the girl, now older, playing the mbria as others play … Sounds are made by manually pushing down gently and releasing bent metal tines with a … Read the tabs from left to right, top to bottom and play the tines in order. There are many questions and opinions about how to learn and how to teach mbira. Everett, PA: HoneyRock. I play the nyunganyunga as well as the nhare mbira. How are we to learn? Board-mounted lamellaphones are often played inside gourds or bowls for increased resonance, and the We hope these observations are useful. Your left thumb plays all of the double row of keys. We would suggest, however, that in the non-Shona world, where most people learning mbira do not have a lifetime of experience hearing the two parts played together, there may be much merit to learning basic kushaura and kutsihira parts first before moving on to more advanced kushauras. Humility is required, as the gwenyambira is merely a tool of the spirits, who enable him/her to play their music for them. Get that African feeling! So, the arrangement of notes on the Hugh Tracey kalimba (and on virtually any kalimba that copies the instrument) makes certain complex musical operations very simple. Zimbabwean music, instruments and educational info - MBIRA is a non-profit organization supporting 300 traditional musicians and instrument makers in Zimbabwe. In Eastern and Southern Africa, there are many kinds of mbira, often accompanied by the hosho, a percussion instrument. [33], Archived Link - Mbira.co.zw, "A community of mbira players, researchers, makers & lovers, for the enhancement of the Mbira, music & fashion. They encourage building a solid foundation on a small number of pieces or variations. Q: What are some of the subjects that you cover in your music? Look to others playing mbira, even online and in communities such as Dandemutande, for guidance. It is a sturdy instrument, requiring only occasional care. The composite melody is an embellishment of the 3:2 cross-rhythm (also known as a hemiola).[14]. Actually from before birth, as they are likely to have been hearing it in their mother's womb. Composer Georg Hajdu has tuned the Hugh Tracey alto kalimba to the chromatic steps of the Bohlen–Pierce scale in a piece called Just Her – Jester – Gesture. Kalimba-like instruments came to exist from the northern reaches of North Africa to the southern extent of the Kalahari Desert, and from the east coast to the west coast, though many or most groups of people in Africa did not possess mbiras. There are a variety of ways to learn. Musicologists classify it as a lamellaphone, part of the plucked idiophone family of musical instruments. Legendary US rapper Nas pays tribute to Zimbabwe’s Mbira. If your thumbs/finger get sore, we sell picks for mbir… Here are examples from B. Michael Williams' Getting Started with Mbira dzaVadzimu: When presented without audio with which to hear what the notated music is to sound like, such a method works only for those who are accustomed to reading music. (2001) Learning Mbira: A Beginning. The inharmonic overtones are strongest in the attack and die out rather quickly, leaving an almost pure tone. [6], Various kinds of plucked idiophones and lamellaphones have existed in Africa for thousands of years. We will also, in the near future, offer some beginning lessons for those starting to play mbira. If you can't sit next to an mbira player and take a lesson, sitting next to them by watching a video would seem to be the next best thing. “Each week, pick a ‘starting point of the week’ and start playing the piece at that point in the cycle every time you play. And trust your gut. There are many things you need to do before you can get started. The two most common are notation and, more recently (and with the advent of YouTube), video. If chords are played in the lower octave, the same notes will appear on the opposite side of the kalimba in the upper octave, which makes it very easy to simultaneously play a melody in the upper octave and an accompanying harmony in the lower octave. Learn to Play Your Favorite Instrument. An octagonal mbira of high craftsmanship which spans two octaves. Listen free with trial. In The Soul of Mbira Paul Berliner relates how mbira students are encouraged to watch others play and pick up what they can by watching. [8] The mbira was differentiated in its physical form and social uses as it spread. Develop good habits of playing keys with the correct thumb/finger. Behind the Doodle: Celebrating Mbira. Array instruments make it easier to navigate among the notes and yet they are more versatile than non-array instruments. Erica Azim, an American mbira player and teacher, encourages her students to listen long and deeply to a song before beginning to play it. Generally, the Array mbira is large enough to allow two people to play on the same instrument at once, side by side. Pluck the corresponding tines on your instrument. When a tine is plucked, the adjacent tines also create secondary vibrations that increase the harmonic complexity of an individual note. This interactive online instrument shows you the story of the mbira, an instrument that has been played for over 1000 years in Southern Africa! The need for some way to learn mbira has led people to experiment with methods of transmitting mbira playing. The Bohlen–Pierce scale subdivides the just twelfth into 13 steps. [32], Even though it is set in Botswana, the 1980 movie The Gods Must Be Crazy features a character playing the mbira. May 21st marks the beginning of Culture Week in Zimbabwe, and Google is joining in the celebration with a homepage Doodle game that lets you play Zimbabwe’s national instrument, the mbira. 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