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ABOUT

The website is named after the Mbirafon musical instrument (see an overview below) and is organized into three main sections.

 

1) Home (CDs and digital downloads, eBooks, videos).

2) Artwork (Clay sculptures, pen and ink drawings).

3) About (How to order, contact, and more).

 

Please feel free to get in touch with any questions.

— Giambattista Marcucci

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HOW TO ORDER CDs AND DIGITAL ALBUMS

CDs and full album digital downloads (in MP3) can be ordered through PayPal using the shopping cart features on each page. The digital download album price is €5. All digital download buyers will receive an email with the download link. Please ensure that you use your correct email address when making your purchase. The link will be available for 24 hours. As for the physical CDs, those available are €19, free worldwide shipping via Priority Mail. A buyer who purchases the CDs will also receive the download link.

 

 

HOW TO ORDER ARTWORKS

Pen and Ink drawings (unframed) and kiln-fired clay sculptures can be ordered through PayPal using the Buy Now button on each page. Each entry is identified by way of a unique reference code. The cost of the drawing and sculpture is €200 — free shipping and handling. Your order will be professionally packaged and shipped worldwide via insured Air Mail with tracking number within two business days of receiving cleared payment. All works are signed one-of-a-kind pieces. Up for sale are only original pen and ink drawings, no duplicates or prints. Each drawing and sculpture is unique and comes with a 30-day unconditional money-back guarantee. All listed items are in stock unless otherwise noted.

 

 

MBIRAFON MUSICAL INTRUMENT: AN OVERVIEW

 

Mbirafon is a modern, tunable variant of a well-known African musical instrument widespread in the South Saharan areas. A percussion instrument belonging to the family of plucked idiophones (so-called lamellophones or lamellaphones) consists of a wooden soundboard or soundbox with a variable number of keys (strips made by metal or wood) attached to the soundboard. The instrument is played holding the soundboard with both hands and plucking the metal strips with thumbs, or other fingers, to produce a rhythmic melody.

 

 

The lamellophones have very different shapes and sizes, and their soundboards are built with various materials, including wood, metal cans, coconut shells, gourds, to mention the most common. The number of traditional African types is endless, as well as the variety of names the instrument is known among the ethnic groups throughout black Africa ('mbira,' 'sanza,' 'kalimba,' 'marimba' to name a few).

 

Lately, the lamellophone has also been made available in the Western world and can be easily purchased in a diverse assortment of models, both acoustic and electric.

 

 

To be more precise, the mbirafon musical instrument prototype I produced, could be considered a modern tunable variant of that particular lamellophone named 'likembé,' widespread among the Mbuti Pygmies of the Ituri forest, Central Africa. It, in some ways, reminds the ethereal 'likembé' sound.

 

I have constructed the mbirafon 8-note musical instrument after several years of discographical research and study of the subject. Two are the main distinctive features of the mbirafon that make it somehow different if compared with the original African models and the new Western re-adaptations of the instrument.

 

The first is the highly efficient tune system I have adopted. The second is the metal strips' shape, quality, and material. Let's examine both aspects in depth.

 

 

Each of the eight metal strips (steel rods) is held by a cylindrical support inserted in the wooden board. This cylindrical support (1.42" in length and 0,156" in diameter) has threading on one end and a small hole with a screw on the other. A cap nut, screwed on the thread, has the function to hold and adjust the height of the cylindrical support inserted in the wooden board. On the other end of the cylindrical support, the metal strip passes through the small hole, which can be tight by the screw. The note's pitch can be adjusted by sliding back and forth the metal strip throughout the hole. By tightening the screw, the metal strip can be stopped, remaining precisely tuned in that position. The tighten-screw avoids any possible slipping of the metal strip while playing the instrument and its consequent loss of tune.

 

In conclusion, the cylindrical support adjusts the note's pitch both vertically and horizontally. Vertically the cap nut regulates the height of the metal strip in respect of the bridge level. Horizontally the screw precisely locks up the note's pitch produced by the vibration of the metal strip.

 

 

This particular tuning system made the mbirafon, as far as I know, the only genuinely tunable lamellophone existing today. Any other model, while being played, is bound to lose its tuning. The mbirafon, on the contrary, can be set with specific tuning and played indefinitely, keeping that given tuning until the player decides to set up a new one.

 

The second peculiar feature of the mbirafon is the shape and material of its metal strips. Its steel rods have a circular section and come from an old type of automatic umbrella no longer available in the market today. They are the kind of umbrella that opens up automatically, with a click of a button.

 

Every once in a while, I find such a kind of old, broken-down umbrellas, and I recycle their highly flexible steel rods to make a mbirafon. Since these parts are getting harder to find, I can only make a limited number of pieces. They are prototypes not available for sale.

 

Those umbrella's steel rods give the instrument a unique sound quality, far different from any other model of lamellophone, as long as resonance, warmness, volume, and timbre are concerned.

 

The thin mbirafon's mahogany wooden board finished with shellac and vegetal wax increases instrument elegance and sound resonance, making it handy to play.

 

A final word about the instrument's bridge: made of aluminum, aesthetically coherent with the whole instrument's aspect, it is functionally designed to avoid any unwanted misalignment of the steel rods.

 

 

RELATED LINKS

 

N. Scott Robinson

World music and percussion. An essay about the mbira musical instrument.

 

Musique d'Afrique, Sanza

Several pages about the African lamellophone in the French language.

 

Sanza

African Thumb Pianos from the collections of François & Françoise Boulanger-Bouhière, the Royal Museum for Central Africa and MIM.

 

SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY

 

Elanga Nkake, Losokya (Fonti musicali CD fmd 302).

 

Centrafrique, Musique Gbáyá, Chánts à penser (Ocora CD C580008).

 

Centrafrique, Musique Gbáyá, Chánts à penser (2) (Ocora CD C560079).

 

Centrafrique/Central Africa, Musique pur sanza en pays Gbaya/Sanza Music in the Land of the Gbaya (VDE CD-755).

 

Music of Africa Series 28, Musical Instruments, Reeds (Mbira), Recordings by Hugh Tracey (CD MOA28).

 

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Jean-Sébastien Laurenty, Les Sanza du Congo, Two Volumes, Musee Royal de L'Afrique Centrale, Tervurern Belgique 1962.

 

Jean-Sébastien Laurenty, L'Organologie du Zaïre, Tome II, Les Sanza, Les Xylophones, Les Tambours à fente, Musee Royal de L'Afrique Centrale, Tervurern Belgique 1995.

 

François Borel, Collections d'Instruments de Musique, Les Sanza, Musée d'Etnographie, Neuchâtel, Suisse 1986.

 

Vincent Dehoux, Chants à Penser Gbaya (Centrafrique), Editions Selaf, Paris 1986.

 

Gerhard Kubik, Kalimba, Nsansi, Mbira, Lamellophon in Afrika, Museum für Völkerkunde, Berlin 1998.

 

Gerhard Kubik, Africa and the Blues, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson 1999.

 

Paul F. Berliner, The Soul of Mbira, Music, and Traditions of the Shona People of Zimbabwe with an Appendix: Building and Playing a Shona Karimba, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles 1978.

 

Marie Thérèse Brincard (edited by), Sounding Forms, African Musical Instruments, The American Federation of Arts, New York 1989.

 

MBIRAFON VIBRATIONS AND RESONANCES

AUDIO SAMPLES

 

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Mbirafon Vibrations and Resonances - Audio Sample #1

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Mbirafon Vibrations and Resonances - Audio Sample #2

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Mbirafon Vibrations and Resonances - Audio Sample #3

 

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