Google on Thursday is celebrating Zimbabwe’s Culture Week with an interactive Doodle of the mbira, the country’s national instrument. The mbira originated in Southern Africa and has played an integral role in the traditions of Zimbabwe’s Shona people for more than a 1,000 years.
The interactive Doodle starts by telling the story of a young girl who quickly fell in love with the mbira after watching an elder play the instrument. The story then follows the girl as she grows up to perform in front of a large crowd and pass her mbira on to a young child.
Before creating the doodle, Google visited the Shona people in Zimbabwe to learn more about the mbira and its ties to the Shona culture.
“What stands out to me is the sense of community, belonging and pride associated with the mbira, and the variety of ways it weaves itself into people’s lives, from the traditional to the modern,” said Jonathan Shneier, South African Doodler and project concept lead, in a blog post. “We’ve tried to give people around the world a taste of a broad and deep cultural tradition that isn’t very well known outside its homeland.”
The instrument consists of a handheld soundboard, called the gwariva, and a series of 22 to 28 thin metal keys. Traditionally, the keys were made from iron ore smelted from rocks, but today the keys are made of recycled materials, such as car spokes or cans. Bottle caps, beads and shells can also be attached to the keys to create the mbira’s distinct buzzing sound.
Google challenges people to play four traditional and modern songs including Nhemamusasa, Bangiza, Taireva and Chemutengure by hovering their mouse over the right keys when instructed. Outside of the game, the mbira is played by plucking the keys with forefinger and thumbs.