Thursday’s Google Doodle, celebrated the mbira, an ancient, musical instrument of the Shona people in Zimbabwe, in honor of Zimbabwe’s Culture Week.

The mbira is Zimbabwe’s national instrument.

Google users are invited to click on the animation which takes them through four animated stories and four chances to learn to play the instrument virtually.

The story follows a young girl with her mother who first stops to hear an elderly man play the instrument. In the second chapter, a man makes the mbira for the girl who then goes on to play the instrument herself.

Lisa Takehana, the designer of the Google Doodle and animation said, “Because we’re celebrating a musical instrument, we knew we wanted our audience to experience the beauty of the mbira by playing a digital version and listening to a variety of songs that spanned traditional to contemporary.”

The first song users can play is a traditional mbira song called “Nhemamusasa.” The animation requires users to hover their mouse over the instrument’s keys in order to complete each level. Other songs in the animation include “Taireva” and “Chemutengure.”

When guests have passed all levels, they can enter a free play mode at the end of the animation.

The mbira is a crucial link to the past for the Shona people in Zimbabwe. Traditionally played by men, in recent years women have begun to play the instrument and are pushing its sound in a more contemporary direction. It is made from handled hardwood soundboard and a series of metal keys. 

Sometimes referred to as the “thumb piano,” the mbira is played by plucking the metal keys between the thumbs and forefinger. Players often add materials like bottle caps or beads to the instrument to create its well-known buzzing sound.

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