The mbira is a musical instrument
used by the Shona people of Zimbabwe
. It has roughly 20 keys, usually made of metal, of varying lengths mounted on the sounding board to achieve different tones. It is played by plucking the keys with one's thumb, and hence this is why many Westerners
call it a 'thumb piano
', even though my Music as World Phenomenon teacher told me he would give an F to anyone who called it that. Ah well.
To amplify this instrument, it is often mounted inside a calabash, and wedged in with a stick. Often beads, bottle caps, or shells are mounted on a metal plate to make it buzz when played, which adds texture to the sound.
There are many different tunings of the mbira, and the only real rule is that two mbira played together should be tuned the same way.