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Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Story of Making Mbiras

The Story of Making
(little thumb pianos)

I have this lovely CD called:

Four Legged Tales
Animal stories from Here and Away
Told by Laura Simms, Accompanied by The Real Myth Ensemble

It truly is a little gem that my family has loved and the children enjoy hearing during rest time.
One of my favorite stories on this CD is a Zimbabwe tale called Rabbit and Lion.

I have adapted this story many times in telling it with puppets at the school, however this summer my husband suggested making Mbiras.  I thought this was a wonderful idea. 
So the first task was to have the children paint a piece of wood.

The next step is to hammer flat bobby pins to use as the keys.
My husband then took chop sticks and staple gunned one to the top of the wood.
The reason we decided to staple the wood down was that it gave a little
flexibility under the wood to slide the keys in.

Once the keys are slid into place, put another chop stick underneath the keys.  You can glue this piece into place.  The keys do move around a bit, but this also allows the keys to be placed in different position to tune it.

After the Mbiras where complete, I played the story while doing the puppet show.  The children had never heard the recording of this particular story yet, so hearing the Mbira, which is such a pretty sound, and having them play their own was simply enchanting and beautiful.
Below is the story written out of the Rabbit and Lion, as adapted by Laura Simms.

Rabbit and Lion
Lion was the king of all the animals, but Rabbit was loved by everyone.  Rabbit was such a good musician that whenever the animals in the jungle heard his music they started to dance.  This made Lion so angry.  Lion said “I don’t dance, I don’t like to dance, I will never dance.”
One day Lion was walking in the forest and he saw Rabbit up ahead.  Lion decided to scare the music right out of him.  Lion went hiding in a tree and Rabbit came walking by.  Lion jumped out and roared so fiercely that Rabbit stopped in his tracks, his ears went straight up, his feet were stiff on the earth, his eyes grew wide and Rabbit started to shake.  Lion was pleased, he roared and bared his teeth, and then rabbit remembered his music.
He took his mbira which he always carried, little thumb piano, and he started to play.  At first this made Lion so furious that he opened his mouth even wider to roar, but what came out was a song.  Lion sang “I don’t dance, I don’t like to dance” but he was already moving to the music.  “I don’t dance, I don’t like to dance,” and rabbit just kept on playing.  Lion closed his mouth, and Lion began to dance singing all the time “I don’t dance, I don’t like to dance, I don’t dance, I don’t like to dance.”  And Rabbit walked back playing music, and Lion followed all the way.  Rabbit didn’t stop, Lion didn’t stop.  When they got to the edge of the forest Rabbit began playing the sweetest song and Lion sang softly… “no not me, I don’t dance, no not me I don’t like to dance, no not me.”  And Lion laid down while Rabbit softly sang Lion  to sleep.  When Lion was fast asleep, Rabbit stopped playing, he hopped away as quickly as he could.  Since then Rabbit stays as far away as he can from Lion.  As for Lion, if you ask him, he will always say, “I don’t dance, no, no, not me. Never.”