also called  mbira,  likembe,  kalimba,  or  thumb piano  
 African musical instrument consisting of a set of tuned metal or bamboo tongues (lamellae) of varying length attached at one end to a soundboard that often has a box or calabash resonator. Board-mounted lamellaphones are often played inside gourds or bowls for increased resonance, and the timbre may be modified by attaching rattling devices to the board or resonator or by attaching metal cuffs at the base of the tongues.

      The lamellaphone is often classified as a plucked idiophone—i.e., an instrument whose sounding parts are resonant solids. This term, however, is not strictly accurate, because the tongues are not plucked but rather depressed and released with the thumbs and fingers. The lamellaphone is commonly played as an accompaniment to song, but in some areas it is used for purely instrumental music.

      The lamellaphone was described by European travelers as early as 1586. It is widely distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa in the same regions as the xylophone, to which its tuning is similar and with which it shares several local names. It was taken to Latin America by African slaves during the 19th century.

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Universalium. 2010.

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