Google has joined Zimbabwe is Celebrating the Southern African country’s culture week with an interactive Google Doodle showcasing the country’s national instrument called the Mbira. The Doodle allows anyone to try out their hand at the magnificent instruments.
The Google Doodle begins with an animation of a young girl walking with her mother, stopping to listen to an elderly man playing the mbira. Google users are then invited to learn to play a virtual mbira, by hovering their mouse over the keys, as they play a traditional song called “Nhemamusasa.”
The second chapter of the animation sees a man making a mbira for the young girl, and the third sees the girl, now older, playing the mbira as others play various instruments and dance.
What is Mbira?
Unlike what has been reported by The Independent, the mbira originated in Southern Africa and has played a key role in the traditions and cultural identity of Zimbabwe’s Shona people for centuries.
The instrument features prominently in Shona ceremonies and is a crucial link to the past, as it is a way of playing songs that have been passed down for hundreds of years. The mbira was traditionally played by men, but in recent years Zimbabwean women have started playing the instrument and are pushing its sound in a contemporary direction.
The instrument is made using the wood from the Mubvamaropa or “Bloodwood” tree in addition to a steel wire which makes up the keys of the instrument.
Over the course of the game, you’ll get to learn and play along with both traditional and modern songs. Once you’ve finished the four levels, you’re offered the chance to free play with the mbira by tapping, clicking, or using your keyboard.
To ensure today’s Doodle was as authentic as it could be, the Google Doodles team actually took a trip to Zimbabwe and worked closely with the Shona people to capture and share the heart of their culture.
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.
But what makes the mbira truly magical is that they come with thousands of years worth of history and culture, and it was essential to us to represent it beyond just their technical components.
Throughout the development process, we worked closely with the friends we made from our Zimbabwe trip, mbira experts, and Shona consultants to write the narrative that aligned with their values, and made sure we represented the mbira and culture with as much integrity as possible.
You can play the game by visiting Google homepage.