Definition of mbira in US English:



  • (especially in southern Africa) another term for thumb piano
    • ‘These songs conjure a sense of community and activity with their lively mbira parts and the ecstatic singing, making the mbira an instrument of sociality, festivity, and fierce activity.’
    • ‘The baseline is a humble, positive uplifting of Shona culture and values, which is why guitars, drums and horns take a back seat to the unassuming little mbira finger piano.’
    • ‘His music focuses on the social and economic issues that affect the daily lives of ordinary people, and is influenced by the traditional mbira and drumming rhythm of his clan.’
    • ‘The album is made entirely from a multitracked mbira (thumb piano) and occasional rhythmic accompaniment.’
    • ‘The artist's brother makes mbiras, the musical instrument intimately associated with possession ceremonies; his grandfather carved head rests; and his mother was a potter and his source of inspiration.’


Late 19th century: from Shona, probably an alteration of rimba ‘a note’.