Mbira (pronounced m-BEE-ra) are a family of musical instruments, traditional to the Shona people of Zimbabwe. They consist of a wooden board (often fitted with a resonator) with attached staggered metal tines, played by holding the instrument in the hands and plucking the tines with the thumbs (at minimum), the right forefinger (most mbira), and sometimes the left forefinger.  (information from Wikipedia)

We have 12 unique handmade mbira at Lilly Music Library for you to borrow and learn. We also have how-to-play mbira videos that you can borrow (or watch in the library), as well as numerous books and recordings related to mbira.

Mbira can be borrowed for three days at a time and must be handled with great care. Please read policies below carefully before borrowing. 


Tufts ID holders can check out mbira by visiting the service desk. These items can be borrowed for 3 days at a time. Instruments must be returned to the Music Library service desk (please do not drop in return bins or return at another Tufts Library).

Conditions of Use

  • Handle the instruments carefully.
  • All instruments are inserted in a padded bag which should always be used when transporting mbira.
  • Mbira should be returned in the condition it was received.
  • All instruments must be returned to the Music Library service desk, not through the book drop.
  • Borrower assumes full responsibility for damage, loss or theft.

Damage, loss or theft and related fees

  • If an mbira is damaged, lost or stolen, please contact us at musiclib@tufts.edu and a staff member will reach out to you to discuss appropriate actions.
  • Fees start at $350 for lost or damaged mbiras.

If you have questions about borrowing mbira, please stop by the Music Library service desk, email us at musiclib@tufts.edu, or call us at 617-627-3594.