World Music Monday Instrument of the Week: the Mbira


Each week, tune into World Music Mondays on WMSE (Mondays from 9am – 11:30am CST) to not only listen to world music, but to learn about a different instrument each week, curated by program host, Ruadhan Ward, an Ethnomusicology student and WMSE DJ. Read up on this week’s instrument, here…

The mbira is a traditional instrument from Zimbabwe, Africa. Native to the Shona people, the mbira is played during social gatherings and religious ceremonies, and is used to communicate with ancestors.

The instrument is a wooden box with anywhere from 15-30 metal tines. These tines are plucked with the thumbs, which is where the western term for the mbira comes from (the “thumb piano”). There are also bottle caps and shells attached to the soundboard to create the buzzing sound that is unique to the mbira. The mbira is a quintessentially African instrument, that continues to shape and influence all of African music. Here is a link to a mbira demonstration.


Here is what we played on the last edition of Instrument of the Week:

1.) “Gumbukumbo” by an unknown artist from Zimbabwe The African Mbira: Music of the Shona People

2.) “A Good Husband” by Kasai Allstars from Beware the Fetish

3.) “Fantasy on a Shona Theme” by Glenn Kotche off of the album Mobile

4.) “Message from Mozart” by Richard Crandell from Mbira Magic

5.) “Fula Fula” by Konono No.1 from Assume Crash Position


Tune in next week Monday at 10:30 for the next Instrument of the Week segment!