Mbira, Giant

Mbira, Giant

(Array Mbira, Sanza, Mbila, Linguaphone, Zanza, Afrikanische Harfe, Arpa Africana, Bass Mbira, Bass Kalimba, Bass Thumb Piano, Marimbula, Sansa)

Mfg. by Array Instruments

5 octaves of each note on each set of tines. Arranged in circle of 4ths.

Price/Day $

Click for more info

Emil Richards bought this giant mbira from Array Instruments in San Diego in the 1980s. This thumb piano is almost 5 chromatic octaves, and each tine has overtones of multiple octaves of that note when plucked. Emil tended to play it with picks rather than fingers; though he occasionally used harder metal picks, he actually preferred the sound of felt picks, which gave a warmer sound. In general, the music written for it tended to be sustained sounds, slow melodic passages, and double stops.


  • The giant mbira plays a melodic role in this clip from Lethal Weapon 2 (1989), composed by Michael Kamen. Also hear it at 3:25.

Please note: these are just examples, as playing technique and mallet/stick choices often have a great effect on the timbre.

These sound excerpts, to the best of our knowledge (unless otherwise noted), include this actual instrument from our collection. To hear the instrument yourself, or to let us know of any errors, please contact us.