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By Scotty Reid
Call it a lesson in the prevalence of the unquestioning acceptance of white supremacist history as taught by white publishing companies like the Encyclopedia Britannica. One would hope that the producer of the Google Doodle checked around before naming Bartolomeo Cristofori as the inventor of the piano. The entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica is kind of ambiguous stating that “Cristofori apparently invented the piano around 1709”? Apparently is defined as “as far as one knows or can see”? Well apparently, one can do Google Searches and discover that the first piano was invented in Africa over a thousand years before Cristofori was born.
Cristofori certainly improved upon the first piano that uses tuned metal-tines to produce music notes by plucking the keys with one’s thumbs hence why people in the West call it a thumb piano. The modern piano as most people know it is based on the same principle of tuning metal strings to produce music notes. The biggest mechanical difference is in how the metal strings of a modern piano are struck and the box encasing the strings give a different kind of acoustical sound but the result is the same. Both pianos can be tuned and play notes.
According to the 1998 book by Gerhard Kubik, Kalimba – Nsansi – Mbira. Lamellophone in Afrika. With CD. Berlin: Museum für Völkerkunde,
Various kinds of thumb pianos have existed in Africa for thousands of years. The tines were originally made of bamboo but over the years metal keys have been developed. The mbira appears to have been invented twice in Africa: a wood or bamboo-tined instrument appeared on the west coast of Africa about 3000 years ago, and metal-tined lamellophones appeared in the Zambezi River valley around 1,300 years ago.
The thumb piano belongs to a family of instruments known by several names, the likembe, mbila, mbira huru, mbira njari, mbira nyunga, sansu, zanzu, karimbao, marimba, karimba, kalimba, okeme,ubo and the sanza.
If the Google Doodle team had named Bartolomeo Cristofori as perhaps the inventor of the modern acoustic piano, then perhaps there would be no questions about why Google is spreading incorrect information about history, inventions and their inventors. Perhaps they should find sources other than the Encyclopedia Britannica which has been promoting a white supremacy view of the world since white supremacist first began publishing it between 1768 and 1771. Apparently, no one really knows when it first went into publication either.