Google salutes mbira music heritage Gahamadze (left) and Mbira Dzenharira on stage

Arts Reporters
Some have devised the name “thumb piano” to try and give the mbira instrument an exotic name. It was in a similar vein that an allusion to “thick porridge” was made as reference to sadza.

Well, mbira is mbira and sadza will always be sadza — no exotic terms can replace such original names.

And Google team yesterday proved this indispensable fact when they dedicated their doodle space to celebrate the mbira instrument as a way of saluting Zimbabwe for celebrating the culture week.

A Google Doodle is a special, temporary alteration of the logo on Google’s homepages intended to commemorate holidays, events, achievements, and notable historical figures.

So, yesterday was a day to celebrate mbira. While some narrators on the accompanying documentary to the doodle alluded to researches on “thumb piano”, Google was specific about Zimbabwe’s historical, cultural and spiritual instrument and told the world that the instument is called mbira according to its local orogins.

It was a special dedication to the mbira instrument and its origins. A short documentary accompanying the doodle space presented a good narration of about the mbira instrument.

Local mbira players and makers that were interviewed on the documentary expressed their feelings about the instrument.

Among the interviewed mbira experts are Mbira DzeNharira leader Tendai “Samaita” Gahamadze and Albert Chimedza of Mbira Centre.

Loiuse Hall of The Independent in UK got information from Google about yesterday’s move.

“Google is celebrating Zimbabwe’s national instrument the mbira as part of Zimbabwe’s Culture Week, with an interactive video that allows anyone to try their hand at the unique instrument,” noted The Independent report

“The mbira has been played for over 1,000 years and plays an integral role in the traditions and cultural identity of Zimbabwe’s Shona people.

“The instrument, which originated in South America, is made up of a handheld hardwood soundboard, called the gwariva and has a series of thin metal keys affixed to its surface.

“It is played by plucking the metal keys between the thumbs and forefinger, and as a result, is sometimes referred to as the ‘thumb piano’.”

On the documentary the researchers note that materials such as bottle caps or beads can be attached to the instrument to create its signature buzzing sound.

The mbira remains a vital cultural emblem of the community as it is often played in a variety of Shona ceremonies.

Through the music of the mbira the Shona people have been able to pass down over hundreds of years and generations.

The Shona name for the instrument is mbira dzavadzimu, which means “mbira of the ancestors”.

This interactive google doodle video on the site’s homepage yesterday allowed players to learn about the instrument through the story of a Zimbabwean girl, shedding light on its rich musical history.

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