The marimbas are hand-made of paduk or mahogany and come in a variety of sizes up to 5 ft. long and high. They are voiced like a percussive choir, with soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass.
Mallets of differing hardness and weight are used to extend the tonal range, which is further enhanced by resonators under the individual keys. The result is a sound of great warmth and depth, capable of delivering a driving, poly-rhythmic dance beat or delicate melodically intertwining trance songs.
The hand-held mbira (em-beer-ah) has been played for over 1000 years at religious rituals, royal courts, and social occasions. It’s metal keys are mounted on a wooden soundboard. Often it is placed inside a large gourd resonator (deze). The keys are played with the two thumbs plucking down and the right forefinger plucking up.
Hosho rattles are made of seed-filled gourds. They are used to drive the complex rhythms and accompany the dancing. A good hosho player is a treasured member of a marimba ensemble. But watch out if they come up next to you and play hard right in your ear---that means the hosho player has determined you are “off the beat” and is trying to get you back in the groove!
Kutandara typically uses three sopranos, two tenors, a baritone, and a bass, in addition to hosho, mbira, saxophones, a variety of hand drums, trap set, vocalists and dancers.