Where the streets have marimbas

Event lets people try their hand

Youth co-ordinator of Striking Accord

The soft echo of Zimbabwean-style marimbas will soon fill the town of Qualicum Beach as the Striking Accord project prepares to plant the instruments all around the town.

“You’ll be able to walk down the street and see all different kinds of people trying the marimbas,” said Fahlon Smith, one of two youth co-ordinators of the project.

The six-day project, organized by the Arrowsmith Community Enhancement Society (ACES) in collaboration with the Town of Qualicum Beach, was inspired by an art project that saw pianos in public spaces in 16 cities around the world. Qualicum’s version will see 14 marimbas — large wooden instruments that resemble xylophones — in seven locations on sidewalks and in public squares for three days — June 21-23 between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. 

The project kicks off June 19 at Coombs Country Market with a Father’s Day concert featuring local marimba groups Jangano Marimba and Kumbana Marimba, the latter of which Smith and her sister Jasmine (the other youth co-ordinator) are members.   

Both groups have 10 players, with Jangano ages 9-13 and Kumbana ages 14-21. After the performance audience members can try their hand at playing the instruments, with guidance. 

Following the three days of marimbas on the street, members of the public (over nine years of age) can sign up for a free workshop, taking place Friday, June 24 in town square for an hour at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Instructors of the workshops will be members of marimba group Afro-Mumanzi, which also includes Fahlon and Jasmine and three other musicians from Vancouver. 

On Saturday, June 25 an informal concert in Town Square will take place at 6:30 p.m. showcasing the new skills of workshop members and those of seniors who have recently completed lessons at the Bradley Centre in Coombs. Jangano Marimba and Kumbana Marimba will also play at this concert.

“Basically all the marimba programs, activities and ensembles are going to be getting together for that date to share their music and show the community what they’ve been working on,” said Smith.

Finally there will be a street dance at Primrose and Second Avenue at 8 p.m. on June 25 featuring the professional marimba bands, including Afro-Mumanzi.

All of the activities over the six days are free, funded by grants from the BC Arts Council and Regional District of Nanaimo, with a stage donation by Kingsley Trucking.

Fahlon said marimbas are a great instrument for any age to try from toddlers right up to seniors. She said she likes the idea of making the instruments accessible to the general public for experimentation and is looking forward to some enthusiastic responses.

“It’s something new we’re going to try and see how it works and I’m excited to see the response from the public,” she said.


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