A couple of weeks ago, The Guardian published an article on thumb pianos – mbira, kalimba, etc. It’s a good introduction, and you can find the full article here.
Most percussionists at one point or another study some form of African percussion – for me, it meant dabbling a bit in Ugandan amadinda music in grad school. I always wanted to learn to play the mbira, or at least be able to play one song on it. I love the simplicity of the instrument – it’s delicate tone, the beautiful counterpoint of the traditional Shona music.
After reading the mbira article, I headed over to YouTube to look for some mbira performances. The first is pretty cool – an ensemble called Hokoyo Marimba from Eugene, OR that plays traditional Zimbabwean dance music. I would love to be part of an ensemble like this.
The second find was a trip down memory lane. This is an excerpt from a 1984 Nexus concert in Japan. Bob Becker was the first person I ever heard play mbira – of course I loved his playing, and wondered if there was any percussion instrument he hadn’t mastered. I could listen to this piece all day.