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Google Doodle Spotlights Zimbabwe's Traditional Music With Mbira

Today's Google Doodle celebrates the mbira, a traditional Zimbabwean instrument whose sound has been popularised by musicians such as Stella Chiweshe, Leonard Chiyanike, Biggie Tembo and the Bhundu Boys, among many others.

Today's Google Doodle is casting into the spotlight one of the most central instruments to Zimbabwe's traditional music scene—the mbira. Often referred to as a "thumb piano" in the West, the mbira is responsible for the distinct melodies in a lot of the traditional music among the Shona people in particular.


While traditional Zimbabwean music is arguably not as popular as its Afro-jazz, rumba and dancehall contemporaries, it is a fundamental genre in many rituals, traditional ceremonies and some church services in Zimbabwe.

The instrument is made using the wood from the Mubvamaropa or "Bloodwood" tree in addition to steel wire which makes up the keys of the instrument.

Leonard Chiyanike, perhaps one of the most well-known mbira players in Zimbabwe, speaks about the meticulous process of creating a single mbira saying, "If [the keys] are forged well and properly aligned, I need not worry about the sound because of the uniformity of how I forge them. There are a few variables in the way I forge them, and I guard against making keys too thick or too thin because, if that happens, the key will sound as if it is choked or muffled when one strikes it. It's a delicate process that I have mastered over the years."

Chiyanike, who can be described as a purist with regards to the mbira, says quite cautiously that, "Mbira is for the makombwe and vepasi (spirits) and it is not something you can just play around with." He adds that, "It's not something that we can just use for trivial entertainment, because it is for matare (consultation with a spirit) and serious traditional rites and rituals."

Other Zimbabwean artists who have popularised the mbira, in more secular settings however, include Stella Chiweshe, Biggie Tembo and the Bhundu Boys. Artists like Thomas Mapfumo and the late Oliver Mtukudzi were also known to dabble with the instrument in a few of their songs.

Watch the informative BBC video with Albert Chimedza, the Director of the Mbira Centre in Harare, here.

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Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images

Sudan Declares State of Emergency, As Military Dissolves Transitional Government

As the North African country edged closer to democracy, Sudan's military has seized power.

Sudan's military has seized power over the North African country, arresting multiple civilian leaders, including the current Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. The power-sharing, unstable coalition, called the Sovereign Council, was created as a transitional government after the fall of dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019, in an attempt to move towards a democratic Sudan.

The Sudanese public has been split in recent weeks as groups protested for a military-run state, while others pushed for a civilian lead, democratic nation. Last week, the Prime Minister vocalized his plans towards a full transition to civilian rule, and his plans to have that body in place by November 17, echoing the voices of thousands of Sudanese demonstrators who showed up in hoards to demand that the promise of Sudan's pro-democracy movement be honored. But on Monday the PM and multiple government ministers and officials were placed under arrest, resulting in Sudan's top general's declaring State of Emergency.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said in a televised statement, "To rectify the revolution's course, we have decided to declare a state of emergency nationwide… dissolve the transitional sovereign council, and dissolve the cabinet." His statement came as soldiers fired live rounds at anti-military protestors, outside of the army headquarters in the capital.

Internet services were cut across the country around dawn and the main roads and bridges into Khartoum shut, before soldiers stormed the headquarters of Sudan's state broadcaster in the capital's twin city of Omdurman, the ministry said. After months of rising tensions in the country, army and paramilitary troops have been deployed across the capital city, Khartoum, with the airports and internet access being shut down. As a result of the coup, hundreds of protestors have taken to the streets, demanding the return of a civilian ruled and the transitional government, the BBC reports.

Demonstrators have spread to a number of Sudanese cities including Atbara, Wad Madani, and Port Sudan, and more are expected to attend the call for action. "We will not leave the streets until the civilian government is back and the transition is back," protest attendee Sawsan Bashir told AFP. While demonstrator Haitham Mohamed says, "We are ready to give our lives for the democratic transition in Sudan."


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