A case for the name Mbira

Hugh Tracey

Abstract


It is perhaps strange that one of Africas most important small musical instruments should suffer from an incorrect naming at the hands of many ethnomusicologists and museum keepers, those who should be most concerned to give it its rightful name and place in the catalogue of this continents instruments. The instrument is popularly known under several rather nebulous names such as Kaffir Piano, Hand Piano, Thumb Piano and Pianino, by those whose major criterion is the modern pianoforte; and Sansa by students who have taken their cue unquestioningly from the printed pages of earlier writers. It is doubly strange that students who would otherwise shrink from misnomers should continue to use the term sansa when by all accounts no indigenous African musician uses this name for his instrument (unless he has learnt it from the same literary sources). The origin of this error appears to be with David Livingstone.

Keywords


Mbira ; Mbira music ; Musical instruments -- Africa

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21504/amj.v2i4.703

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