Blog May 21, 2020
Learn Mbira From Today's Google Doodle

If you're searching for something on the internet this morning, you may have already noticed that today's Google's Doodle is celebrating the mbira, the instrument some call the Zimbabwean "thumb piano."

Google actually approached Afropop's own Banning Eyre and Nora Balaban, his bandmate from Timbila who plays mbira, for help putting the doodle and music together in honor of Zimbabwe's Culture Week this week.

As Banning tells it:

Last fall, musician/producer Nathan Miller approached Nora Balaban of the band Timbila to ask for help. Nathan had studied mbira music in Zimbabwe, and Google approached him about making a doodle in which users would actually learn to play mbira songs. Easier said than done! Long story short, Nora recruited two New England based ZImbabweans, Tendai Muparutsa and Shirley Chukukwa to sing, as well as Ben Teters to play drums and hosho percussion. Fellow Timbila members Rima Fand on violin, and myself on guitar and bass also contributed for the ending dance song in the doodle. Nathan and Nora did the bulk of the detail work, and kudos to the Google team for their diligence in making sure to get things right.

Here's a little video about the mbira and Google Doodle production:

And here's more beautiful music featuring Nora and Banning:

"The doodle is up until midnight, Sat., May 22," Banning says. "Give it a try and spread the word!"


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