Wednesday, January 19, 2011
The Mbira Cycle
Relating the Mbira Cycle to the Karimba Cycle

Karimba cycle
The Karimba Cycle

First, look at the Karimba Cycle - G Bm Em G Bm D (shown in figure at right).

Look at the full Mbira Cycle (below), ignoring the shaded half. The G Bm D G Bm Em is actually the same as the Karimba Cycle, but it's in a different order. To get the classic Karimba Cycle, you need to start in the middle, on the second G.

Remember the theory - the Karimba Cycle is the old music, perhaps as old as 1300 years old. It was like the 12 bar blues. Everybody played it. Then about 800-900 years ago, a great Shona kingdom emerged. It was a time of peace and prosperity. Art grew, and the musical cycle doubled to the full Mbira Cycle. The music went from the complexity of a 12 bar blues to the complexity of Pachelbel's Canon. Almost literally. But in Africa, they did it 500 years before they did it in Europe.

Karimba cycle
The Mbira Cycle - unshaded part is the Karimba Cycle.

Now THAT'S a great message of African Pride for Black History Month!