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Music Thing: The Array Mbira

Peter Rojas
Array Mbira
Each week Tom Whitwell of Music Thing highlights the best of the new music gear that's coming out, as well as noteworthy vintage equipment:

It's been a strangely acoustic week on Music Thing. First we saw Peter Jackson's music box, a $100,000 cabinet full of acoustic instruments played by machines. Then there was some discussion of What's Meg White Playing?. The White Stripes drummer has been playing a weird, colourful thing on stage in South America. It looked like an experimental MIDI interface, but turned out to be Chromatic Desk Bells made for kids.

And the most inspiring new instrument I?ve seen all week is the Array Mbira. Bill Wesley from San Diego has taken the idea of a ?Thumb Piano? (which is a bad name for a bunch of different African instruments, including the Kalimba) and pushed the concept . The Array M?Bira has up to 150 indivdually made and tuned carbon steel tines, soundboards made from various exotic woods, and lots of nice engraving.

That?s probably why they cost from $1,600 to $2,400 (or more for custom woods and Abalone inlays). The tines are tuned according a fantastically complicated scheme invented by Bill himself. There?s also some kind of MIDI controller, but this week it?s all about going back to basics.

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