Thumb Piano

Small size. Big sound. Endless possibilities. Popular throughout Africa, thumb pianos go by many names, vary in construction, are made in a wide range of sizes, but all produce a similar, characteristic, melodic sound. Metal “keys” are a constant; Zimbabwe’s “Kalimba” features one row of them, played with the thumbs, while the country’s “Mbira” features two overlapping rows which are played with the thumbs and index fingers. The “Sanza” of Burkina Faso (sometimes Ghana) features a single row mounted above a gourd-bowl resonator for a big sound from such a small instrument.  

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