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X8 Drums Blog

Why a Kalimba is Not an Mbira

“Kalimba” and “mbira” are often used interchangeably to describe a kalimba or an mbira. It can be pretty confusing when learning about either of these African instruments and even more confusing when you’re trying to buy one. To ensure you have the best experience when shopping for your new kalimba at X8 Drums, we thought we’d talk a bit about why a kalimba is not an mbira.The kalimba looks pretty similar to an mbira, and both instruments consist of a wooden soundboard with steel keys that pl …
20th Nov 2021 Kaitlin Meilert

How to Repair and Tune Your Mbira

Properly maintaining and repairing your mbira keeps it in good condition. But it can be hard to find good info on how to maintain and repair an mbira. In fact, one question that mbira, kalimba, and matepe percussionist Joel Laviolette gets a lot and hasn’t seen any good Youtube videos on is how to fix loose mbira keys. In our latest video, Joel explains how to tune and fix loose keys and also shares some general maintenance tips so that you can keep your new mbira in top shape. How …
27th May 2014 Kaitlin Meilert

What is an Mbira?

The mbira is an ancient, traditional African hand percussion instrument that dates back over 1,000 years in Zimbabwe. The mbira features a soundboard made from gourd or wood with 6 to 33 wooden or metal keys attached to the top. Each key plays a different note. To create different pitches, the keys are positioned at different lengths.When performers depress and release the keys with their thumbs and index fingers, the mbira produces a tranquil, fluid bell-like sound. The mbira also produces c …
23rd May 2014 Kaitlin Meilert

Zimbabwe Matepe Collection at X8 Drums

In addition to kalimbas and mbiras, X8 Drums now offers matepes! Since the matepe is his primary instrument, Joel Laviolette is back to demonstrate and tell us more about our unique collection of handmade matepes.One of the things that makes the matepe so different from other mbiras is that it’s played with two thumbs and two index fingers. Each finger is playing a separate melody at the same time for a total of four independent melodies. When people first hear the matepe, it tends to sound li …
22nd May 2014 Kaitlin Meilert

Introduction to the High Tuned Kalimba at X8 Drums

In addition to mbiras, X8 Drums now offers kalimbas, so we brought Joel Laviolette back to talk about this other traditional African percussion instrument. Like the mbira you saw in our last video, this kalimba was made by Joel’s instructor in Zimbabwe. A new design, this kalimba is also built in tune with the regular high-tuned mbiras. A traditional instrument of the Shona people in Zimbabwe, kalimbas usually have only 15 keys, so they don’t have the full seven-note scale of a …
15th May 2014

Introduction to the Kalimba Tuned Mbira at X8 Drums

We recently introduced you to the traditional African mbira, a small instrument with a powerful tranquility. We think this unique percussion instrument is pretty cool and we'll soon be offering it at X8 Drums, so we asked percussionist Joel Laviolette to tell us more about the mbira. In the last  mbira video we shared with you, Joel demoed the mbira. (By the way, the song Joel played in that video was “Nhemamusasa,” one of the first songs people usually learn on the mbira.) In this …
14th May 2014

The Tranquil Sounds of the Traditional African Mbira

Traditional African mbiras are now available at X8 drums, so we though we'd take a moment to introduce you to this percussion instrument that has been part of African culture for over 800 years. Percussionist Joel Laviolette demonstrates the mbira in the video above. A seemingly simple instrument with an ethereal sound, the mbira is a soundboard made from gourd or wood with 6 to 33 wooden or metal keys attached on the top. Performers play the mbira by depressing and releasing the free …
12th May 2014 Kaitlin Meilert