Resonant mallet percussion instruments, like the marimba are believed to be some of the first pitched instruments ever invented. The oldest written record of a wooden mallet percussion instrument dates back to 3,500 B.C.E., where the “ugab” is made reference to in the Judeo-Christian bible. This instrument contained bars of different lengths suspended over gourds or bamboo resonators.

The origins of the marimba are still up for debate, as South Africa, Indonesia, the Amazon, Thailand, and more regions claim to have created it. One possible location lies in South Africa. South African folklore contains a goddess named “Marimba” who made an instrument by hanging gourds below wooden bars. In the sixteenth century, the marimba was brought to South America as a result of the slave trade, where Sebastian Hurtado, a Guatemalan, took off the gourds and attached wooden resonator pipes in their places. This is the defining characteristic between South American and African marimbas, and is the model of the modern-day marimba.

Alport Mhlanga played a significant role in the revival and development of the Marimba in Zimbabwe - bringing it back from near extinction in the early 1960's. Many of his students have gone on to compose and share the music around the world.

Dumisani Maraire, student of Alport's, was among the first to bring this music to Seattle from Zimbabwe over 12 years ago. Many others have come and shared since then.

We are thankful for their gifts.

Marimbas belong to the same family of intruments as xylophones and have between two and three octaves of wooden keys, often arranged in simple scales (eg. piano white keys only). Our soprano and tenor marimbas have 2 complete octaves (15 keys). The tenor, baritone and bass have between 1-2 octaves, with the tenor having a higher pitch than the baritone and bass. The keys are made from either padauk, wenge, mahogany, or rosewood. Each key is cut and tuned by grinding a groove in the underside.

Contact us at: 509-637-2737 or 541-490-8303