Marimba History

Marimba music is a unique musical style full of energy and rooted in tradition. This form of instrumentation was born in Zimbabwe in the 1960's based on ideas from neighboring Mozambique and the choral traditions of South Africa and Europe. Much of the music is transcribed from the music of the mbira. You may recognize the mbira as the thumb piano, however, in Zimbabwe the music of the mbira is deeply complex, spiritual and historic. There are mbira songs which are thousands of years old. Chikomo's co-founder and influential band member Christy Clavio is passionate about mbira music and has spent time studying with mbira masters in Zimbabwe. If you would like to know more about the mbira Christy is a wonderful resource.

In 1968 Dumisani Maraire, known as Dumi, traveled to the United States from Zimbabwe and began teaching at the University of Washington in Seattle. His music and teaching style were so compelling that he was in high demand and began spending extended amounts of time in the U.S. for the next 25 years. He began several marimba bands on the west coast during this period establishing a rich American tradition of Zimbabwean Marimba music. Today, from his efforts, marimba bands are found throughout the country. For more info about the late Dumi visit from the link below.

Our instruments include several different sizes and tones of marimba. The most prominent being the large Bass marimba which has a powerful sound one can feel throughout the body. In ascending order we have baritone, tenor, and soprano marimbas which primarily play chords and the lead melody of an arrangement. The "lead" player is the "artistic director" of the arrangement for that particular song. Each member has the opportunity to "lead" and we each play multiple parts on different marimbas based on a particular songs arrangement. There is drum kit, hand drums, body percussion and hand percussion providing the backbone for Chikomos performances. The "shakers" are called Hosho and are the traditional percussion accompaniment for marimba and mbira music. They are made from marank gourds and are filled with different types of seeds including hota seeds, corn or hemp seeds to achieve different sounds. The ones we play use traditional hota seeds. Most of our beautiful instruments were made by Chikomo co-founder, Steve Kimble. He makes smaller personal marimbas to sell. Check our store on this website for more information about getting a marimba for your very own!

We are a community of intergenerational musicians from different musical backgrounds and styles that have come together as a family to share this wonderful tradition of music from Zimbabwe. Our first teacher and co-founder was Stan Sitnik who's influence and inspiration are felt to this day. He brought us his love of this type of music through the teachings of Michael Breeze, a student of Dumi's. Our music is both contemporary and traditional. Through playing and performing Zimbabwean music we strive to spread and foster an awareness and respect for its music and culture. At each of our performances we honor the roots of the music, support its teachers, and educate people to the best of our abilities through engagement with the audience. Each song is a story and each performance an experience. As a group we are lucky to have such talented, enthusiastic members who are passionate about the traditional music of Zimbabwe and have the creative drive to explore new possibilities. Through playing and interweaving expressions we come together as a group to create synergy and celebrate the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We are very grateful.

Please reach out to us through the website or on our facebook page and speak to us at shows if you are interested in more information about marimba music or marimba playing. We love growing this wonderful marimba community and family.

Here are some links to other sites in the marimba community.



MARIMBA BUILDERS: (Craig Laffolette) (Eric Orem) (Carl Dean)

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