Lamellophone – Mbira du Zimbabwe ?

Type: T4m                                         


Sanza à languettes métalliques sur table «massive» sans résonateur (T4m)


Ethnie: –
Vernaculaire: mbira
Pays: Zimbabwe ?

Dimension: 19 cm
Matériau: bois, métal, corne ? 
Table: la table est un bloc de bois de forme rectangulaire creusé de manière à laisser deux rebords latéraux
Clavier: double en terrasse de 26 languettes de laiton et de fer à touches arrondies pour la majorité d’entre-elles.
Chevalets: antérieur: oui, lame métallique droite posée sur le champ et insérée dans les rebords latéraux – postérieur: oui, épaisse baguette carrée en bois
Barre de pression: métallique de section carrée, présentant aux deux extrémités un enroulement en forme d’anneau. Elle est ligaturée aux languettes et à la table par des agrafes
Remarque: corne attachée à la table

Réf. pour semblables:

  • Sites internet AMNH (American Museum of Natural History: N° 90.0/154 – 90.0/1255 – 90.1/6799)

Thumb Pianos – Gallery Ezakwantu

 Gallery Ezakwantu

Thumb Pianos – Lekembe – Mbira


Western Zambia – Angola – DRC – Botswana


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Lekembe and Mbira, are generic names for several African thumb pianos or lamellophones. Tongues or keys are made of wood, iron or bamboo. In South Africa thumb pianos are called kalinda or kalimba and sometimes sansa. The object on offer is typical of those used in south western Congo, western Zambia and large swaths of Angola. The object came to us from an estate sale which included mostly southern African beaded objects dating to the 1940’s. It measures + – 3.5 x 16 x 26 centimetres and produces an excellent sound.

Old Man                      Girl playing similar Lekembe – Circa 1950                      Another


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In south western Congo, western Zambia and much of Angola, a thumb piano is called Casagi, Lekembe and Sanza. Marie Louise Bastin referred to related examples in Angola as Lungandu. The carved incised face is a representation of an ancestral initiation mask. Hornet’s wax was added to seal the carved compartment (image above right).


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This thumb piano was purchased in Portugal from a colonial collection, the context confirming a collection date of early 1960’s or before. It measures + – 4 x 14 x 24.5 centimetres.

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Two generations of carvings appear on the lower face (and sides) of the Sanza thumb piano. An original ‘cowrie’ shape (money / currency) form appears boldly on the lower base. Looking closely at the carving lines one sees that the carnivorous water tortoise (head / tail) was over-carved on original horizontal lines, confirming the large cowrie was overtaken by a secondary carver.

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Two lines of five cowries were carved on the reverse / bottom. At the top are two rows of chevron motif patterns are found.


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The side panels of the resonator look new, but they are in excess of fifty year of  age, having been replaced about the time of collection – (prior to the Angolan war). We opened one to discover the source of the internal rattle. Two pieces of thick bottle glass and four Portuguese 50 centavo coins dated 1950  were found.

For more


Phoenix – MIM Musical Instrument Museum: Exhibition SANZA African Thumb Pianos

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African Thumb Pianos from the collections of 

François & Françoise Boulanger-Bouhière, the Royal Museum for Central Africa and MIM

MIM Target Gallery

February 25 to October 1, 2012

MIM – Musical Instrument Museum

4725 E. Mayo Boulevard Phoenix, AZ 85050


Les textes ci-après sont extraits de la préface du catalogue qui accompagne l’exposition.

Conceived by founder Robert J. Ulrich as a global institutionthe Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) presents exhibits featuring instrument ensembles from every country and major territory in the worldAudiovisual recordings of these instruments appear throughout the museum. Assembling this extraordinary collection led MIM to collaborate with institutionsmusicianscollectorsand scholars on every continentThe success of MIMs mission has been apparent since our opening in April 2010the museum has been met with a great deal of enthusiasm and has earned awards for its architectural excellencepresentation qualityand guest-friendliness. 

I believe the mark of a great museum is its ability to inspire and motivate guests to request even more information about the objects they have seen. At MIMwe delight in the curiosity of visitors who often note the similarities between instruments from different world regions and ask us for more information about these interconnections. We have built the Target Galleryour special exhibitions areato explore these kinds of subjects in greater detail than we can address in our main galleries.

SANZA: African Thumb Pianos from the Collections of F Boulanger-Bouhièrethe Royal Museum for Central Africaand MIM is a superb example of how this museum builds on its strengths and collaborations to present the very best of musical instruments and world music to our audiences. MIM Board of Directors member Marc Leo Félixwho is from Belgium, brought Ulrich’s attention to an exhibition of the amazing collection of thumb pianos that had been assembled over the past decades by two dedicated musical instrument collectorsOn the spotUlrich ,decided that this impressive collection should be exhibited at MIMMIM’s exhibits already included many fine examples of thumb pianos -­ both through its existing collaboration with the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium, and its own collections – so it was an easy decision to incorporate these into the exhibition.

With its enduring commitment to ensure that these musical instruments come to lifeMIM also possessed (or acquired) multimedia resources that demonstrated instrument -making techniques and the instruments magnificent sounds.

A gifted scholar of various groups in Angolathe Democratic Republic of the Congoand other African countries, MIM curator Dr. Manuel Jordán brought his expertise to the projectAs his introduction indicatessanzas have a deep cultural significance and diverse symbolic meaning for many African peoplesDrJordáns understandingcultural sensitivityand hard work brought this exhibition and catalog to completion in a short period of time. The work of his wifeEsther Villalobosis also very much appreciatedher voluntary assistance was an important part of the catalog’s completionThe stunning display created by MIM’s exhibit team has inspired contemplationinterpretationand appreciation of this incredible instrument and the music it creates.

I know that everyone will enjoy this catalog of an exhibition that brings together many of the finest examples of this exquisite African instrumentSanzas are now better known, more appreciated, and more widely played around the world than ever before. I hope everyone will return again and again to discover new and exciting happenings at MIM – ­the most extraordinary museum you’ll ever hear.

Billie (Bill) RDeWalt, PhD

MIM President and Director

MIM has many roles as a museum; one is to enlighten its visitors. ln June 2011, during the annual Brussels Non-European Art Fair (BRUNEAF) in BelgiumBRUNEAF president Pierre Loos gave MIM’s founder Robert J. Ulrich a private viewing of the stunning original SANZA exhibitionBob immediately saw the potential to amaze and inform MIM’s guestsIndeedthis is a unique opportunity to show a vast collection of outstanding examples of a single type of instrumentln order to better appreciate not only the varietybut also the different levels of sanza craftsmanshipcreativityinnovationartistic excellenceand ageit is crucial to see a large number of objects of a similar type.

This monographic exhibition will contrast withand supplementthe regular displays in MIMs Africa Gallery wherein the space allotted to each country, curators show the largest possible variety of instruments found in any given country. I am happy that I was able to bring together all the actors involved so that MIM could featurefor the first time in the United Statesthis interesting and visually exciting exhibitiont which highlights two hundred beautifulsweet-sounding sanzas.

Marc Leo Félix

Founder of the Congo Basin Art History Research CenterMIM Board Member January 152012

SANZA was organized to share specific information based on decades of study by collectors François and Françoise Boulanger-­Bouhière. Theipassion and dedication resulted in a remarkable collectionfeaturing the majority of known sanza types and styles with excellent representative examples of the instrumentThe original SANZA exhibition and catalog were received with enthusiasm in Brusselsthanks to the efforts of Thomas BayetSophie CaltauxPierre Buchand Yannik Van Ruysevelt who had key production roles. The collectors‘ dedication now has new fruitful results at MIMSanzas are biloko kitoko« small objects of great beauty » -in the Lingala language of the D.RCongo, a geographic center for sanza distribution in Africa.

Pierre Loos

BRUNEAF President


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$18 you can purchase a glossy 64-page catalog with photos of all 200 sanza on display at the MIM’s Sanza Exhibit

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Billie (Bill) RDeWalt, PhD – MIM President and Director; Dr. Manuel Jordán – MIM Curator; Pierre Loos – BRUNEAF President 

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 De gauche à droite: Dr. Manuel Jordán – MIM curator; Robert J. Ulrich – MIM FounderMarc Leo Félix – MIM Board Member; 

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$18 you can purchase a glossy 64-page catalog with photos of all 200 sanza on display at the MIM’s Sanza Exhibit

Lamellophone – SANZA Hehe de Tanzanie

TYPE 7m: Sanza à languettes métalliques sur table « en caissette » assemblée / formant résonateur (T7m)


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Type: T7m                                                        
Ethnie: Hehe
Vernaculaireilimba ?
Pays: Tanzanie
Dimension: 35 cm
Matériau: bois, métal
Clavier: de 31 lamelles


The marimba is used among many tribes, but in particular fancied among the people of the Cental Region around Dodoma. The small wooden box is the resonator for a row of metal springs of different lengths. They are touched with the thumbs to produce the required sound.

Source: Wembah-Rachid & kirknaes J.A.R. & Jesper dans TANZANIA – 1990 – p. 29