Google Doodle celebrates the mbira today. The mbira is a traditional Zimbabwean instrument. Its sound has been used by several notable musicians including Leonard Chiyanike, Stella Chiweshe, the Bhundu Boys, Biggie Tembo, and a host of others.
The mbira, which is popularly referred to as a ‘thumb piano’ in the West, is responsible for several melodies in some traditional music- especially among the people of Shona.
The traditional Zimbabwean music might not be as popular as rumba, dancehall, or Afro-jazz, but it is an essential genre used for chuck services, ceremonies, and rituals in Zimbabwe.
Mbira can be made by using the wood from the Mubyamaropa or ‘Bloodwood’ tree. The keys of the instrument can be made by using steel wire.
One of most notable mbira players in Zimbabwe, Leonard Chiyanike, said about the process of creating the instrument:
If [the keys] are forged well and properly aligned, I need not worry about the sound because of the uniformity of how I forge them. There are a few variables in the way I forge them, and I guard against making keys too thick or too thin because, if that happens, the key will sound as if it is choked or muffled when one strikes it. It’s a delicate process that I have mastered over the years.
Other notable Zimbabwean artists who are known for the usage of the instrument in more secular settings are such as Biggie Tembo, Stella Chiweshe, and the Bhundu Boys.
Popular artists such as the late Oliver Mtukudzi and Thomas Mapfumo, are well known for dabbling the instrument in some of their songs.