For many years on one of the walls in the unofficial cultural centre of Barga, the Da Aristo’s bar in Barga Vecchia, there have been hanging a collection of musical instruments.
People coming in to the bar can pick up the instruments and play.
This week two new instruments have arrived and been added to the collection.
A mbira – an African musical instrument consisting of a wooden board (often fitted with a resonator) with attached staggered metal tines, played by holding the instrument in the hands and plucking the tines with the thumbs In the mid 1950s the mbira was the basis for the development of the kalimba, a westernized version designed and marketed by the ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracey, leading to a great expansion of its distribution outside of Africa.
The second is also originally from Africa – a mini Marimba.
The marimba’s roots are ancient, extending to early human instincts to strike wood, stone and metal slabs and objects that produced musical tones.
The first, crude beginnings of the marimba were several slabs of wood placed on sticks set over a hole in the ground which served as a resonating chamber. Later, slabs of wood were suspended over large gourds or wooden boxes which served to enhance the tone.
The marimba was developed in Central America by African slaves, and descended from its ancestral balafon instrument, which was also built by African slaves.