X87.521 Lamellophone

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“thumb piano”
Shona peoples
H: 23.0 cm, W: 21.5 cm, D: 6.2 cm ( H: 9.0 in, W: 8.4 in, D: 2.4 in)
Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Helen and Dr. Robert Kuhn. X87.521


Instead of shells, this instrument uses bottle caps to produce a buzzing sound. Mbiras are not always played with gourd resonators, and given the fragility of the gourds themselves, some musicians have replaced them with fiberglass skeuomorphs of the same color as the gourds. Aside from the bira rituals, Shona lamellophones are performed in a variety of popular entertainment contexts, and women performers have now joined what was previously an all-male domain.

Source: DjeDje, J. C. (1999). “Turn Up the Volume! A Celebration of African Music”, Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. page 241