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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 complex harmonic and rhythmic effects that help make its sound so captivating. An mbira’s soundboard also features bottlecaps that act as buzzers for added percussive effect.

To purchase a hand built, one-of-a-kind mbira from X8 Drums, visit

22nd May 2014 Kaitlin Meilert

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