This week I thought I’d give you a break from the bones and provide something a bit more cultural for you to identify:
Any idea what it is, where it’s from and what it’s for?
As usual you can put your questions, comments and suggestions below and I’ll get back to you as best I can (possibly with some additional information from my colleague Tom – who knows far more about this object than I do!).
I think either a musical instrument or something electric which fits into something else.
Your first guess is good!
My thought was musical instrument too, but can’t get any further than that!
Well, you’re right about it being a musical instrument.
It’s a thumb piano of some description.
That’s an old name for this style of instrument, but it’s been largely dropped for a variety of reasons, but you’re in the right zone!
It’s a mbira or thumb piano, from Africa. I’ve played with one at the Horniman, they are fun!
Ooh, very good – you’ve got the family, but not the species!
Certainly looks like some form of African Sanza, but I’m no expert!
Right family, wrong species.
Is it one of those African musical instruments that you play with your thumbs ? I think it is !
I used to know what those are called, but I forgot…
aww… the time for me to type my previous message and three people had identified it already !
It’s OK, you were on completely the right track and the actual name for this particular and somewhat peculiar mbira still hasn’t been mentioned.
Well too late. Like an Mbira without the big round bit. A thumb operated musical instrument, african, probably Zimbabwe.
Not too late – there are various different types of mbira (or more properly lamellophone) and you spotted that it doesn’t have the round form. This style of lamellophone is quite distinctive to a particular region and it isn’t Zimbabwe…
Lukembe? There is dozens of these things!
It’s a kalimba (a box with twangy bits on it).
As mentioned above – you’ve got the right family of instruments, but the wrong species…
As far as I can make out, the names for most of these instruments varies more by region than by their design. However, I think this one is called a kongoma/gongoma (from West Africa, possibly Guinea?), and is a bass instrument with those short, fat keys.
Ooh, region is important, but design is actually key in identifying this instrument. Spot the novelty in the design and it will lead you to the correct region and the correct name!
Damn and blast! And I spent ages this morning doing research! I prefer skulls – they’re easier to pin down (although I seem to be getting a lot of those wrong lately too!).
Is it from Nigeria? Google found me a paper with reference to a Nigerian mbira with no bridge, but won’t let me read the useful part without a subscription, so I couldn’t get its name!
I love these types of Friday mystery objects; I’m not so good at the bones. The first thing I’d note about this is that it has the distinctive shape of a boat. So I was going to guess Sansa from West Africa because I found other boat shaped Sansa online. But as you said this is not a Sansa, so I’m at a loss. The other unique feature appears to be in the way the metal pieces are mounted directly into the wood rather that having them strung through a bridge. So, I guess no answers here just analysis.
Ooh – you’ve almost hit the nail on the head! You’ve spotted the main design feature that makes this instrument particularly interesting – excellent observations!
Is it a likembe from Zaire.
Is the type you can sit on?
Only if you wanted a very sore bottom. If you click on the image it should be roughly life size (depending on your monitor settings obviously). Not that big.
Is it a juvenile or an adult?
Those little circles remind me of designs from Mali.
I can see why – although I think the concentric circle design crops up quite commonly in a variety of cultures and places.