So I stumbled upon a mbira today. The story of how I came to hold a mbira in my hands will come another day. What is a mbira you ask?
This is a mbira. I can define it in picture form. My version of the definition is that it is a traditional musical instrument. It makes the pleasant sounds you can listen for hours without getting bored.
The first time I experienced mbira music was at my Grandpa’s memorial. I must have been around 12 years old maybe… The event being a memorial could be the reason why I thought mbira music is emotional I don’t know. My Grandpa died long before I was born, they say he was one of the great traditional men in his time and era. He was a great mbira player. His father too, who eventually got the nickname Maridzambira (facts from oral history) on his memorial, the last one I attended, I got to listen to his brothers playing the mbira in honour of his memory.
When the first note was struck, everyone went silent. Even the kids playing outside had to sit down and listen. Now I don’t know if that was with the hope that Grandpa’s spirit might come out in some way to one of us I don’t know. (They say that usually happened.) I was taken by the music. The melody sank into my ears and hit the right spot of my emotions. I did not know Grandpa but I surely knew my dad who always spoke highly of him. I was taken to the day I last my Dad, days before he passed away at the hospital.
That reminded me why I always thought the mbira was an instrument that hit the most of your emotions. However it was different this time. As the mbira music played, I sat and listened. The melodies sank in and a wave of sadness struck me. I kept on listening and the music poured on and on.
As the music went on, something opened up. Just like those people from the movies who resurrect from the dead, “I saw the light”. I felt it. Some peace and calm touched me and a sense of happiness filtered through my ears to the head. I don’t know why but I caught myself smiling. I don’t know about therapy but I feel like I went through some therapy of some sort.
Now I understand why my family regards the mbira as the most important instrument of music. Maybe it did soothe them when they were done. Maybe their love for mbira was way before a piano was introduced to Africa I don’t know yet. Any-hoo, I am touched by the tunes.
Well I do want to play it some day, but for now my fingers are not that flexible. I tried a few keys and I could see my audience’s faces that the sound was horrible (lol). I was cracking their ears literally.
For now I’ll just continue enjoying mbira for the rest of the week.