The Marimba

Local ensemble Marimba Xplosion.
Ensemble Marimba Xplosion performing, with Banzi Tema on marimba.

The jubilant expression of the marimba is a popular sound heard amongst South Africans. Street performers hit the marimba enthusiastically as tourists pass by; choirs make use of the instrument when indigenous African songs are sung. It is used by various outreach organisations to teach underprivileged children music.

The pure, joyful sounds of the marimba are synonymous with the vibrancy of South Africa. The instrument is a symbol of the country’s tenacity and colourful heritage. It has a rich history, dating back to the 14th century when it was a rudimentary ensemble of wooden blocks with one leg and different pitches.

By Carla Lottering

Banzi Tema: Marimba Maestro

Marimba maestro Banzi Tema is an advocate for the arts in Langa, with an impressive background in music. In 1983 Tema performed with Amajingqi, fusing jazz sounds and marimba....more

Origins and Structure of the Marimba

The marimba is one of the oldest and most popular Southern African instruments, reworked and reshaped over the years to form the modern-day marimba....more

Styles of Marimba

The use of the marimba is influenced by what style is played. There are two primary styles: ngoma and musical notation. Ngoma is commonly used in Africa and Mexico and focuses on oral-kinaesthetic ways of teaching....more