mbira, noun

Forms:
Also imbira.
Origin:
ShonaShow more Shona (Zimbabwe), probably by metathesis of rimba, limba, a note.
Music
Any of several small hand-held African musical instruments, having metal tongues of varying lengths which are plucked with the thumbs and forefingers, sometimes over or inside a hollow gourd.
Note:
Originating in the countries to the north of South Africa.
1951 H. Tracey in Drum Apr. 18The Mbira is the only instrument of quality which is unique and peculiar to Africa alone. It is of small size, being held comfortably between the palms of the hands and consists of a number of metal tongues set out upon a resonating body. The tips of the tongues are plucked by the thumbs and forefingers and emit a clear dulcet tone.
1963 B. Modisane Blame Me on Hist. (1986) 44Like most women I loved she could play on me like an mbira, manoeuvre me into any situation.
1968 L.G. Green Full Many Glorious Morning 153Posselt might have remained longer at Zimbabwe but he listened to a native playing the mbira or kaffir piano with such exquisite melancholy that he became homesick and decided to return home at once.
1973 S. Afr. Panorama May 33 (caption)Dr Tracey holding one of the Mbiras which he has designed. This instrument is often wrongly called a thumb piano.
1976 Daily Dispatch 6 Feb. (Suppl.) 2The marimba originated in East Africa and imbira (a Shona instrument) is played in worship of ancestors.
1978 Grocott’s Mail 25 Apr. (caption)Andrew Tracey with Kalimba Mbira made by the Nsenga tribe in Zambia, which belongs to the Albany Museum collection of African musical instruments.
1987 Cosmopolitan Apr. 28South Africa has no instrument other than the mouth bow that it can truly call its own. Instruments easily associated with Africa such as the drums, the marimbas, the akadindas and the mbiras are all indigenous to countries north of us.
[1990 Weekly Mail 8 Feb. 17The traditional instrument known all over Africa — less so down here — the ‘hand-piano’, called mbira by the Zimbabweans. It sounds like a crystal rivulet rushing over pebbles.]
Any of several small hand-held African musical instruments, having metal tongues of varying lengths which are plucked with the thumbs and forefingers, sometimes over or inside a hollow gourd.

Visualise Quotations

Quotation summary

Senses

19511990