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AMI may have seemed to have dropped off the map as far as communications are concerned, but this is only because we are so busy. We have had a record-breaking year on so many fronts and I can only express stunned gratitude for your fantastic endorsement of our vision of making music available to all. The demand for Kalimbas in Europe and America has never been so great and continues to grow. We have had to take on two new staff members to try to keep up, and now we are running out of factory floor space!!

On the local front, marimbas seem to be confirming their status as the instrument for everyone. We have supplied six schools with sets since taking on production, as well as three professional bands-Amampondo, Azumah and the Shamwari game reserve New Generation Theatre Group. My recent trip to the Gauteng area, when I visited schools to tune and service their instruments, was a revelation. All of the schools had the problem of having to turn away budding musicians who are desperate to join the marimba bands. Most schools bands are in great demand for functions and gigs, the instruments being transported huge distances around the Gauteng area every weekend. This has caused me to rethink the practicality of our exclusively wooden instruments, which, while sounding fantastic, don't cope that well with being thrown onto the back of a bakkie regularly. Plans are already afoot for a range of metal framed marimbas, with detachable resonator units and folding legs, which I am sure will stand the rigors of gigging better. There may have to be some compromise in the quality of sound - we shall have to see.

I must apologise for the delays in supply that some of you have had to endure over the past few months. As already mentioned, part of the problem has been the unprecedented demand. The other problem has been with the supply of the Kiaat wood that is the essential ingredient in marimba notes and kalimba bodies. Much of our supply comes from the areas in Mozambique and Zimbabwe that were inundated by floods earlier this year. The subsequent troubles in Zimbabwe further compounded the problem and this left us without wood for about three months. Supplies have now been restored, but we have been struggling to overcome the backlog. Thankfully we are now almost on top of it, so we are hopeful that we can start dispatching your orders with much less delay.

I would like to have the pleasure of introducing you to our staff:

Click Here to meet the A.M.I.Staff

Grahamstown Festival - 2001

The Grahamstown Arts Festival has once again been and gone. For A.M.I. this usually means more visitors, and this year we were able to offer them more than the usual guided tour and history lesson. Our resident band, Ingangalala played marimbas every working day of the festival at 10 o'clock. After spreading the word at our daily, lunch time Steelband performances, we had a steady stream of people, who all enjoyed Vuyanis arrangements of Xhosa songs and tunes.

The festival also brought Mbira maker, Albert Chimedza. From Harare, Zimbabwe. Albert runs a small studio workshop, making the Mbira Dzavudzimu - the most popular of the Zimbabwean Mbiras. His instruments are constructed in the traditional way, with hand-forged notes and wire-tensioned pressure bars. He is a stickler for detail, and insists that the instruments be 'played-in' for at least a week before they are ready for sale. These are definitely instruments to play, and not curios!!Albert exports around the world, so if you are interested, contact him on achimedza@africaonline.co.zw

The other wonderful visit was from a group of Australian Ethno-tourists(?) who were soaking up as much indigenous South African culture as they could. They were ably guided in their quest by Valanga Khoza, a South African, now resident in Oz. I met Valanga two years ago, when he commissioned a special extended kalimba. He had discovered our instruments some time before, and they had become a vehicle for his prodigious talent. Valanga's music is still very much rooted in his South African past. He can lay down some classic Maskanda guitar grooves. In fact it is hard to believe that he lives and works on the opposite side of the Globe. Lovely stuff, and worth getting hold of. See his CDs in the resources section: Click Here

Mark Those Keys!!!

Something that many Marimbas around the country share is whimsical decoration in the form of small squares of paper stuck to the notes with prestik. These seem to be the agreed method to demarcate notes, sometimes only showing up the F#'s (whose inclusion in the diatonic keyboard must be really irritating for all you logical keyboard players). While printing out blown up fonts on your computer may by creatively satisfying, the results hardly look good, and are definitely not permanent.

James has felt your frustration, and has organised for smart gold transfers to be printed to give your marimba sets a bit of class. We will mark all future marimbas like this, varnishing over the transfers for added protection. But, what about all of you who have marimbas already? We can sell you a sheet of the transfers, sufficient for 4 standard instruments for R30.00 including postage. Phone us, write to us or e-mail us at: info@kalimba.co.za

Gauteng Adventures

Trips to Jo'burg are always daunting because of the 10 hour travelling time, but I continue to encounter the most delightful surprises. Last time it was the success stories of self motivated school bands, who were enthusiastically changing the face of music in schools, with very little help from their teachers.

This time it was Amasiko, a high energy troupe who entertain at the Bruma Flea Market. In just three months their leader, Andrew Mtsweni, has taken a group of friends and neighbours and put together an act which should make African Footprints sit up and take notice. Formally unemployed, they now face an exciting future. Andrew takes seriously his Zulu inheritance, and the dancing reflects Zulu traditions, as well as borrowing elements from the San.

Clad in traditional Zulu costume, the group of nine use just 2 marimbas - Tenor and Baritone - to underpin their powerful harmonious singing. Vusi on tenor is a highly accomplished soloist, weaving ever-changing patterns through the rock solid basslines.

Additional percussion is served up by Andrew on Djembe and various players taking turns on the wonderful standing bass drum. Cow bells, shakers and tambourines add more spice. But, the icing on the cake is the whole, visual dance spectacle. Three lively ladies and two men perform a masterpiece of mobile body art, interacting with the musicians and keeping excitement at fever pitch for the 45 minutes their performance lasts.

I believe that this is a group to watch. Already they are attracting attention of overseas talent spotters, and it will not be long before they land a gig outside our borders. They are great ambassadors, relishing every opportunity to be photographed with their tourist admirers. The two new sets of notes I delivered to them are one more step in their path to stardom. I highly recommend any Marimba fan to go and support AMASIKO if they are in the Bruma area. Andrew hopes to have a CD recorded soon, which I will post on our site as soon as it becomes available.

Pure Kalimba

For those of you fortunate enough to hear him at the Grahamstown festival four years ago, Decio Gioielli is an unforgettable experience. His style is unmistakably Brazillian, despite the fact that the kalimba is African. The latest album that he has sent us is a compilation of many of his pieces played entirely solo on various Kalimbas. Called, aptly 'KALIMBA' it even includes a tune called 'Grahamstown', in honour of his visit. Decio can be seen playing on the Kalimba Promotional Video we supply, where his innovations in playing produce the fantastic counterpoint layers that master musicians are able to coax from a single instrument. I will try to post some extracts on the Sounds page of our site, and post the details in resources: Click Here

Decio can be contacted directly at:


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