It is called a kalimba. Rhymes with Simba and marimba. But it's neither one of those. I picked up this little thing at a music store in the city about a 45 minutes drive from here. Rodney gave it to me for like 20 bucks.
My sister has been wanting one of these things ever since this African lady came to her school and played it for them. I doubt she'll ever play it when I give it to her, but just the same I know she'll be tickled pink.
So this little thing is also known as a thumb piano, and yup, you guessed it, you play it with your thumbs. When I bought it, it was soooo out of tune. So with a pair of pliers and my fingers (ouch) I gently tuned a few notes to a major scale. (The high notes were too much, maybe I'll get to them but they're so tough!)
Of course I probably did it all wrong, so today I did a little research. I learned that that was not the proper, official way to tune a Kalimba. *sigh* But whatever. I also learned that a guy named Hugh Tracey started making these things in like, the nineteen hundreds. Sooo... curiosity got the best of me and I turned the little kalimba over, trying to make out the old torn sticker on the back.
It's kind of hard to read. (Sorry about the quality, I took these pictures on my cell phone.) But it looks like it said Tracey to me. So I did a little more research... and guess what? On eBay, one of these babies is worth at least 150! And here I am, squeaking away with an authentic kalimba for 20.
I hope my sister just loves it.
PS. Check this out - the kalimba there looks almost just like my sister's!http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalimba