Surprise Marimba Lessons

Teresa Fuller

Today at Batahola Kelsey and I had the opportunity to learn a little bit about playing the Marimba! The marimba is a mainstay of Nicaraguan folk music, and it can be heard in almost every traditional song. In my time here I have had occasional contact with Marimbas, though I had never yet been able to play one. The school where I work had a folk dancing festival and hired a real Marimba band to play at the final event, and I have often seen marimbas at Batahola events. Today I actually got to play one!

The practice session was a surprise for us when I arrived here this afternoon. We met with Nineth (the music teacher) in El Nuevo Amanecer, where she had set up the Marimba. She told us a little bit about the origins of the Marimba, and about its construction. Apparently, it came from Africa (but was perfected here), and depending on the instrument it can be played by between one and eight people at the same time.

Nineth taught us a song piece by piece (she said it was simple… I am not so sure about that…). We would learn a little bit, practice it, try very hard to play it simultaneously, and then learn a little more. I liked playing the Marimba with a friend, it was fun trying to stay on rhythm while both of us made occasional mistakes and had to start over again. I don’t think I had ever realized that there was such a communal aspect to the music. The Marimba can be played as a solo instrument, but it is so much more harmonic when there are two people working together. Other instruments may lend themselves to individualism, but two-person Marimbas need teamwork and the ability to trust each other (both trust that we’ll work together, and trust that we won’t judge each other when we inevitably make mistakes).

Music is of enormous importance here at Batahola, and it has been since the very beginnings of the center. We use it to build community, we pursue both personal and communal development. By learning team-dependent music (like the Marimba) we strengthen our relationships and practice being a supportive community.


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