What is a thumb piano

- Feb 12, 2019 -

The thumb piano is a traditional instrument of Africa. In different African countries, the thumb piano has different names. For example, Kalimba is the name of the instrument in Kenya, while in Zimbabwe it is called Mbira. The Congolese calls it Likembe. There are also names such as Sanza and Thumb Piano.


The part of the body of the thumb piano is an elastic metal strip with a length of different lengths, and the bottom is made of wood or gourd as a resonance box. In the past, the raw materials of these metal strips were only metals that were melted in the ore and are now made of higher quality steel. Thumb pianos come in many different shapes and the number of steel bars is not necessarily the same. For example, Zimbabwe's thumb piano is in a wooden round speaker with 22 to 28 steel bars arranged in two rows. It is said that the music played by this instrument not only can drive away the evil spirits of the patient, but also play the role of praying for rain, so it is one of the most popular instruments in Zimbabwe.


The thumb piano is mainly used for accompaniment. When playing, you should hold the body with both hands and then play with two thumbs. When the thumb is pressed and released, the steel sheet will vibrate and make a sound. Some thumb pianos are equipped with objects such as shells or soda bottle caps, which can make some similar "click" sounds when playing, or sounds like when the tambourine metal pieces shake, making the sound more rich.


The thumb piano is small and easy to carry. When the sunset is over, people will circle and use it to sing or tell stories. Some natives will carry it along the way when they walk long distances.