Country’s traditional marimba finds a new generation

How abut a 16-person marimba orchestra with brass and guitar accompaniment?

That is the treat visitors to the cultural ministry had Sunday as part of the Enamorate de tu ciudad exposition.

The Colegio Patriarca de San José in San Ramón has a special music program that maintains the marimba tradition.

The marimba, of course, is that double keyboard instrument that grew up in Central America probably with the expertise of African slaves.

The instrument has been modernized, and many professionals in orchestras use instruments with man-made materials.

Still, a marimba can be folksy primitive in the style of Colonial instruments. Each key has a resonator affixed below. Traditionally these are of wood, but some native builders use gourds.  The musician usually plays with multiple mallets specially designed for the keys they hit.

The instrument is identified with Guanacaste, but there are old photos showing the instrument in use in San José.

The double line of marimbas Sunday hosted two players apiece. They were high school students. There is also a younger group at the same private Catholic school. Playing is significant exercise.

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