After a long hot and dusty day in the African wilderness, guests at Gondwana’s Etosha Safari Camp unwind to a fire crackling and the distinctive sound of the Etosha Boys, who have been entertaining their guests for years with vibrant and joyful music, giving one the real sense of Africa.

Mbira, Etosha Boys, Etosha Safari Camp, Nyati

Mbira being played by the Etosha boys and Nyati at the Etosha Camp. Image : Christiaan Jacobie

They now have something new in their arsenal, something new with which to enchant their visitors, the Mbira. The Mbira is a traditional African instrument with its roots firmly set in southern Africa. It consists of a small wooden base with some metal keys, of different sizes, which are shaped of metal wires. These keys are then played with the thumbs, making it a type of African thumb piano.

Known as a !gawu-khas in Damara a Okaburumbubwa in Oshiwambo and a Kanobya in Msubia, the Mbira is truly found everywhere in sub-saharan Africa.

Training the Etosha Boys all about the workings of the Mbira is Tawanda “Nyati” Kasvosve. Nyati was born on the 24th of August 1978 in Harare Zimbabwe, where he started playing the Mbira from a very young age, later also on a “larger” scale at numerous traditional festivals, also known as “Biras”. He now teaches playing the Mbira and other instruments to students at the College of the Arts in Windhoek.

Mbira, Etosha Safari Boys, Etosha Safari Camp and Lodge, Nyati, Thumbpiano

The Mbira musical instrument being played by the Etosha Boys.Image : Manni Goldbeck

The different cultures who come together to learn or teach to play the instrument and to enjoy the sound, creates the true spirit of the Oshebeena Bar at Etosha Safari Lodge. Here a great mix of cultures come together and practise the essence of Ubuntu. Just like their forefathers before them, Nyati and the Etosha Boys connect with their audiences using the Mbira and other instruments.

Mbira, Nyati, Etosha Safari Camp and Lodge, Thumbpiano

Mbira being played at the Etosha Safari Camp by the Etosha Safari Boys and Nyati. Image : Manni Goldbeck

Nyati teaches them the instrument on a four day course helping them with performances as well, but one notices that the Mbira lives in them, and only needs a little flame to spark its revival in this modern society. In a way Nyati and the Etosha Boys are the guardians of this beautiful culture and with them the sound of the Mbira lives on and will be heard around a camp fire competing with the sounds of Africa for years to come.

Mbira, Thumbpiano

The Mbira, also known as the Thumbpiano. Image : Mandy Möhle

This timeless piece has left its mark on the large canvas that is the Gondwana experience; each person who has played it, seen it and listened to it now has a story to tell which in the end is what one gets when visiting one of these truly great Namibian locations.

In this modern day and age, it is important that we preserve the cultures that still remain. The Mbira is very much part of the whole African culture and experience, since numerous tribes from the continent play and listen to it. Gondwana and Nyati are preserving this culture for future generations to enjoy.

Author : Christiaan Jacobie, is a third year communications student at the Namibian University of Science and Technology, and is currently working as an intern at the Gondwana Collection Namibia.

Etosha Safari Boys.

Etosha Safari Boys.

Are you interested in seeing the Etosha Safari Boys live in action? Then visit our Website and book your accommodation at the Etosha Safari Camp here.