Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Marimba

What is the national instrument of Guatemala? You guessed it (or maybe you didn't), the marimba! If you don't have the slightest clue what a marimba is, then this is the blog for you.

I was lucky enough to accompany a friend to a village near Antigua, Guatemala where a marimba maker and player lived.

The marimba is a percussion instrument. In Guatemala it is traditionally made out wood from the the Hormigo tree (scientific name Paplonacea).
The large chambers under the instrument are what makes the tones differ. A truly good marimba won't vibrate when played. That means the craftsmanship must be concise and brilliant. 
In order to be a true marimba orchestra, two marimbas are used simultaneously - one with higher notes, one the base (on right). 

Not only is the tone and sound important, but the elegant detail of the carved wood also make the marimba a prized instrument. 

If you are walking around Guatemala in any tourist area, you will most certainly be able to find live marimba music...probably every night. Marimba music is also blared loudly out of shop doors and local eateries. If you listen to it too long, it begins to sound like circus music! 

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