Thumb piano (plucked lamellaphone; tyitanzi), Angola, West Africa, early 20th century (NMM 1243). Played by depressing and releasing the nine (originally ten) tongues (lamellae), five of brass and four of forged iron, with the thumbs (hence its generic English name, thumb piano). The flat soundtable, made of hardwood, is incised with a pattern of lozenges flanked by triangles. Small convex discs of brass decorate the top of the soundtable. Five jingling metal rings are strung on a loop of twisted iron at the lower end. One hole, possibly a spot for the insertion of a mirliton, is carved on the front of the soundtable beneath the lamellae. Two smaller holes are caved near the top of the instrument, possibly for the attachment of a cord with which to suspend the tyitanzi. Overall length: ca. 215 mm; width: 101 mm; depth: 26 mm.

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  • Title: West African Thumb Piano
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date: 1900-1950 c.
  • Location: Angola, West Africa
  • Original Source: photographer: Bill Willroth, Sr.
  • See on Institution's Site: http://orgs.usd.edu/nmm/Africa/1243/Sansa1243.html
  • Rights: National Music Museum, University of South Dakota
  • Medium: plucked percussion musical instrument
  • Credit: Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979