Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Homemade Mbira for Children (African Studies - Kenya)

I've mentioned Mary and Rich Chamberlin's Mama Panya's Pancakes, A Village tale from Kenya, a couple of times now.

It's a sweet story of how a little can become a little bit more, when you invite friends to share what you have. I checked the book out originally as part of our pancake day celebrations. There is "pancake" recipe at the back, though it is really for more of a tortilla like flat bread, than an American style pancake.

We were intrigued by the recipe, but being somewhat pancaked out, we decided to explore other items from the story instead, like the mbira, or thumb piano, being played by the little girl in the blue headband, in the cover picture above.

We found instructions on Activity TV for making a simple thumb piano with items from around the house, and decided to give it a try.

I hot glued a couple of craft sticks to a block of wood (recouped from our catapult), far enough down, so a large bobby pin could touch them, and not reach the end of the block. The original project calls for craft glue, but then there's a drying time.

We donned our safety glasses, and cut four pieces from the fronts of bobby pins, each one slightly shorter than the one before it.

We taped them in place, in descending order, on top of the craft sticks.

Then, I hot glued two more craft sticks over the top of them.

We tightened the layers of craft sticks together by pushing thumb tacks through them, trying, but not succeeding, to keep from cracking the sticks in the process.

Finally, we bent the paper clips up about forty-five degrees, and our thumb piano was ready to play.

The children were pretty impressed with the sound, until I Googled "mbira" for them, and we listened to few clips of the actual instrument being played. The real thing sounds a lot like chimes or bells, ours sounds sort of like dying grasshopper, as T (age 14) describes it.

Still, it's been a lot of fun to play, while learning more about the culture of Kenya.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Debbie said...

What a great challenge, to make your own Mbira.

MamaTea said...

A dying grasshopper! LOL. :) I think its a lovely instrument you made. Certainly a challenge, and very memorable. :)

Phyllis said...

I am sure they will never forget what a Mbira is and the experience of making their own Mbira. Wonderful!

Ticia said...

That is too cool. I'm saving this for when we get to Africa, in that theoretical someday future......

Oh, and now I want to find that book.

Raising a Happy Child said...

Very impressive! Dying grasshopper made me laugh.

Colomama said...

Making a mbira is an elective activity for cub scouts. It all sounded so complicated until I found this. Popsicle sticks, Bobby pins and hot glue, this I can handle! Thanks

DorieSue Walker said...

Exactly! That's Why I Looking This up! Haha

Caleb Schepart said...

Looks great! With a little more effort you can use these same bobby pins to make very nice sounding instruments that do not sound like dying grasshoppers. I am a kalimba maker who believes the world needs more kalimbas, so I put some free plans and concepts on my website. I am not sure if I can put a link here, but if you google DIY nyKalimba you should find it. Happy kalimba making...Caleb

Anonymous said...

Scouts is why I was looking it up too!