Tales of the Mbira - Modern and Ancient
African music on the traditional instrument mbira (thumb piano)
The mbira (thumb piano) hails from Zimbabwe in Southern Africa. To the Shona people of that region the instrument has deep traditional, cultural and spiritual significance, having been played for over a thousand years. It was and still is, used by spirit mediums in all night religious ceremonies (Bira) and through the meditative trance, that the cyclic mbira melodies induce, they are able to connect with the ancestors and hence touch God.Traditionally made and played (by plugging and/or drumming the metal keys with thumbs and fingers) by men in groups of variable size. Each plays a different rhythm or melody to make a repeating, lulling polyrhythmic cycle, that lives, moves and breathes. The sound of what Stella Chiweshe termed "tuned raindrops" is usually accompanied by shakers (hosho) and vocal chants.The mbira has been an integral part of social and religious ceremonies, accompanying all twists and turns of life. Colonial powers in Zimbabwe attempted to quash the instrument manufacturer and popularity with little result, inadvertedly revitalising the Shona culture and setting the instrument up as a symbol of solidarity against the oppressors.In modern times the mbira has found new avenues for expression in music, becoming fused and blended with modern Zimbabwean music forms like Chimurenga and Jit as well as being fused with a myriad of different music styles from outside Zimbabwe. The traditional manner of playing mbira is still popular in its home Zimbabwe.The mbira has gained international respect and recognition. this album aims, within the confines of a single cd, to illustrate some of the highlights in this instrument's illustrous journey, focussing on its present, with an eye on its future, touching on its invloved past.