mbira keys, zvembira

Well folks, we are back from a great weekend at the Zimbabwe in Devon Mbira Camp.

We  had a great laugh about the things that people who are not familiar to mbira say about the music and instrument. These ranged from the funny to the downright annoying!  We’ve complied a top five list from some of the things that people shared with us. Here we go…

1. Is It Made Out of Spoons?

mbira keys, zvembira

Probably the most common question that a lot of mbira players have been asked! It seems this one has ruffled many feathers.  Verdict: Annoying but sweet!

2. Did you make it yourself? 

People have also been asked many times if they made the instruments themselves. Have you had similar experiences? We were just wondering whether this question is asked because the instrument usually looks definitely handmade hence the assumption that everyone can knock one up for themselves. Verdict: Flattering but annoying

3. Can you play “normal” songs on it? 

This we found extremely funny (and a bit annoying)!  People want to know if you can play a pop song on the mbira. It is a very interesting question in that someone is essentially asking about the versatility of the instrument. What we found annoying about this question is the use of the word “normal”.   Anyway maybe this is what they were asking about…

Verdict: Annoying but understandable

4. I can hear a strange buzzing. I think one of your strings is a bit loose. 

Believe it or not, someone had the courage to say this! Buzzing seems to be something that always troubles people when they listen to mbira.  People at the camp spoke a lot about how people always say “It would sound really lovely without those rattling bottle tops” or “it will sound really lovely when you fix the loose bits”. It seems some people are inclined to a ‘clean’ sound. Is it that there is too much buzzing or what? We’ll never know!  We’ve written about buzzing here before.

Verdict: People are entitled to their preferences

5. I’ve got one of those but it’s smaller. My mum brought it back from Africa. 

Well, don’t they all just look the same? We had a laugh about it because we imagined someone from “Africa”   with a violin saying to someone in Europe who has a cello, “oh, I’ve got one of those but it’s smaller. My mum brought it back from Europe”. Check out the blog on ‘Mbira Identity’ here .

Verdict: Very innocent silly thing to say!

Have you heard any funny things out there? We would like to hear from you!

2 Replies to “Top Five Things People Say About Mbira!”

  1. Perfect list! I have been playing mbira for many years, and these questions are always popping up. The spoons one is the most common in my experience…

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