“We believe that music has the power to unlock the potential within every child, as well as serve as a tool for healing and nation-building. Not only is playing the marimba a physical activity; Marimba Jam ensures the psychological benefits are also honed, such as creating a safe-space and feeling part of a bigger community. Our aim is to create an environment in which everyone feels equal, accepted and unified. We use marimba as a means to harness more empathy among the youth to ensure our students are well-rounded and ready to face the world.”
WHY CHOOSE MARIMBA?
Marimba Jam initially started as an outreach project, lead by our founder, Kiara Ramklass in her Grade 11 year. Even as a school student, Kiara identified the benefits of playing in a marimba ensemble and the potential it had to unite the youth in South Africa. The project used the accessibility of marimba learning to allow learners to experience practical music education for the first time. The project also allowed learners from two schools of very different socio-economic backgrounds to build relationships and share in the joy of marimba music.
Since this initial project, Marimba Jam has seen the incredible benefits of playing in a marimba ensemble first-hand. Here, we have listed six such benefits. But don’t just take our word for it! For each of the benefits listed here, we have included some quotes from our students’ answers to the questions “What benefits do you gain from marimba band?” and “Why did you choose marimba?”.
THE BENEFITS OF PLAYING IN A MARIMBA BAND
1. Marimba is Accessible
Marimba, and specifically African or Asian-type marimba, are often thought of as “easy instruments”. This is because these instruments are usually taught without music notation and are often limited in terms of the Western Classical ideals of tuning. The mastering and understanding of these instruments is certainly no easy task, however the initial learning of the marimba is certainly much more accessible than many Western Instruments.
One of Marimba Jam’s core beliefs is that music has the power to unlock the creative potential within every child. Music education is sometimes made inaccessible due to the emphasis on Western Music principles and the theory of this music. Many music programs around the world require learners to read western-music notation in order to progress in their practical abilities.
The ancient xylophone and other music traditions in Africa did not make use of music notation for learning. Children in indigenous African communities would learn music by watching, imitating and exploring their own musical creativity on the various instruments at their disposal.
Marimba makes music more accessible because it is taught through imitation and relies on muscle and ear-memory, rather than music notation. Learners are able to understand music theory principles in practice– and are often unaware that their understanding concepts such as chords, progressions, key, metre etc. have theoretical implications.
“I’ve always wanted to play a musical instrument and marimbas just seemed like the most fun thing to do, and also one that isn’t very hard to understand!” -Kate (Springfield Convent School Grade 9 2021)
“Because I never played and instrument before and thought marimba would be a fun and easier instrument to learn.” -Kristen (Wynberg Girls’ High School Grade 8 2021)
“You don’t feel pressured to learn instantly.”-Nikos (SACS Grade 11 2022)
2. Focus and Memory Improvement
Because Marimba is taught through imitation and relies on muscle and ear-memory, it benefits the cognitive processes of students. By playing in a marimba band each week, students are constantly needing to recall information and build on it. This allows students to develop their cognitive abilities.
“Focus. I gain a lot of focus and memory because I have to focus and remember each song” -Khadijah (Wynberg Girls’ High School Grade 8 2021)
“My memory expands even more now”-Zenande (Wynberg Girls’ High School Grade 8 2021)
“I actually improve my thinking and remembering ability and I just love learning new songs.” -Paige Hans (Springfield Convent School Gr 11 2021)
“I’ve had quite a blast with my team. I learnt so much in the sessions not only how to play but how to play as a team, how to communicate, and how to learn from my mistakes and I progress from then on. I learnt patience and understanding .most of all I had fun” -Goitsimang (Livingstone High School Gr 11 2022)
3. MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS
It is no secret that creative outlets provide mental health benefits to children and adults. Marimba lessons provide a safe and productive space to express creativity, let loose and put your worries aside. Marimba Jam lessons provide a space in the week for learners to let go of the stress and anxiety that they may feel in association to the demands of their academics. Marimba is a chance to take a break, and mentally relax as they explore their musical creativity.
“For me it is a time to relax and have fun and not worry about anything else, it’s a time to let loose. I’m also a lot happier at school.” -Chloë (Springfield Convent School Grade 11 2021)
“Marimba sessions allow me to be free and enable me to express my self through playing it.” -Lilitha (Livingstone High School Grade 11 2022)
“I’m also a lot happier after marimba lessons.” -Paige (Springfield Convent School Grade 11 2021)
“Music keeps me alive. It is my escape and I get turn my anger or emotions to a tune” -Linomtha (Livingstone High School Grade 12 2022)
“Everyone is always super positive and supportive. It was a break from the work in classes, and became the highlight of my week. And our teacher is really fun.” -Anna (Wynberg Girls’ High School Grade 9 2021)
“Marimba is therapeutic and all I really wanted when I joined is to learn how to play and perform and that’s what I’m doing or getting.” -Sihle (Livingstone High School Grade 10 2022)
“Learning skills and expressing my inner joyness” -Inam (Wynberg Girls’ High School Grade 9 2021)
“It has really given me a fun and exciting start to the morning and helped me have a good mindset for the rest of the day.” -Ella (Springfield Convent School Grade 9 2021)
“It’s always such a positive environment to be in especially in the morning because everyone’s so happy.” -Tatum (Wynberg Girls’ High School Grade 8 2021)
“I chose marimbas because I am a quick learner and I enjoy learning new musical instruments. I think marimbas is also associated with positive energy.” -Nadia (Springfield Convent Grade 9 2021)
“The end of the day energy being low then when I leave marimba I have a high energy” -Kristen (Wynberg Girls’ High School Grade 8 2022)
“I feel connected to my inner self”-Nikos (SACS Grade 11 2022)
“It makes me more energised” -Usi (Wynberg Girls’ High School 2022)
“Music brings joy to my life”-Bulelani (Livingstone High School Grade 12 2022)
4. SOCIAL BENEFITS
Marimba is generally an ensemble activity. During lessons, students create music together and are able to explore relationships with people they perhaps would not know outside of this activity. Marimba Jam events also provide an opportunity for bands to work towards a goal together- encouraging them to prepare a performance. Some performances are opportunities for bands to compete against other bands and schools, encouraging team spirit through healthy competition. Other events promote a bigger picture of community as bands from across the schools prepare mass item performances where they will all perform together as one united community.
“I’ve gained a lot more people skills and the ability to work in a team than I ever have during school” -Anna (Wynberg Girls’ High School Grade 9 2021)
“I get to explore my creative side & get to make to connects with people at my school & other schools” -Thandile (Livingstone High School Grade 12 2022)
“I get to perform at different venues and meet other people who play marimba”-View (Livingstone High School Grade 12 2022)
“You gain new friends and learn more about music.” -Kristen (Wynberg Girls’ High School Grade 8 2021)
“I meet new people and learn rhythm/confidence.” -Gemma (Springfield Convent School Grade 8 2021)
“Making new friends and learning another instrument” -Grace (Springfield Convent School Grade 9 2021)
“Becoming friends with people I usually don’t interact with in school” -Emma (Springfield Convent School Grade 12 2021)
“It let’s me feel apart of something and it is fun and I enjoy the music. I get to learn how to play marimba and speak to people in my band who I would usually speak to. And after a day of school I can look forward to going to marimba which kind of helps me relax” -Catherine (Wynberg Girls’ High School Grade 10 2021)
“A sense of belonging as in place management and being open to your creativity.” -Aakifah (Wynberg Girls’ High School Grade 11 2021)
“I get to engage with other kids and learn more everyday” -Lusanda (Wynberg Girls’ High School Grade 8 2021)
“I have made new friends and I learn new songs and it lifts my spirits in the morning.” -Mackenzie (Wynberg Girls’ High School Grade 8 2021)
“I chose Marimba because as an extra curriculum because it is a fun activity to do. It also has a good vibe and brings people together to celebrate music!” – Anabella (Springfield Convent School Grade 8 2022)
“I get to socialise with people and make new friendship” -Lelethu (Livingstone High School Grade 12 2022)
“A sense of community”– Hannah (Springfield Convent School Grade 8 2022)
5. IT IS RELATABLE TO SOUTH AFRICAN STUDENTS
Marimba and other xylophone instruments have a deep-rooted connection to many cultures around the world. It is heavily debated as to whether the first xylophone instruments originated in Africa or Asia. Despite this, the ancient traditions of xylophone music in Africa is undeniable, with many different forms of marimba having been documented around the continent, and many of these traditions are still being carried on today.
South African marimba are a relatively modern instruments, having only been established in the country in the last 40 years. Their closest ancestor is that of the Zimbabwean diatonic marimba, having only been established itself in the 1960s. The Zimbabwean marimba was created in the understanding that it could unite the diverse people of the country since xylophone traditions are seen in so many different cultures in Africa. It is no wonder then that the South African marimba has become so popular in our own country- with a diversity of people that parallels Zimbabwe.
Although the Zimbabwean and South African marimba may share traits of structure and tuning, it is the way they are played that separate these two new-age xylophone traditions.
Learning marimba exposes the South African student to the ancient art of xylophone playing. The instrument allows learners to explore a tradition that is connected to numerous cultures from both Africa and around the globe.
“This space is a really fun one where we can share musical experience together as well as learn the history of an African instrument.” -Ella (Springfield Convent School Grade 9 2021)
“Because it seems different towards other instruments and it has an interesting background behind it and it seemed like fun.” -Jehan (Wynberg Girls’ High School Grade 8 2021)
“I get to bond with new people and learn new things about culture and music.” -Nadia (Springfield Convent School Grade 9 2021)
6. MARIMBA IS FUN!
Marimba bands are seen all over South Africa. If you have been to Cape Town, perhaps you have seen marimba bands playing at the V&A Waterfront, on Long Street, at the Simons Town Harbour or at a local market. If you have ever seen a marimba band, you probably thought to yourself “The band looks like they are having so much fun!”. It comes at no surprise then, that the most common feedback from our students is that “Marimba is fun!”.
“A fun way of playing music” -Analissa (Wynberg Girls’ High School Grade 9 2021)
“They are really interactive and fun”-Tanatswa (SACS Gr 11 2022)
“It’s a fun way to learn a new instrument, be relaxed and engage with others!” -Olivia (Springfield Convent School Grade 11 2021)
“The lessons have been a lot of fun and I look forward to them every week”– Mackenzie (Wynberg Girls’ High School Grade 8 2021)
“It looked fun and I love music. I wanted to expand my music knowledge and so far I don’t regret my decision, also thankful to marimba jam for the scholarship and this great opportunity, marimba has been the actual highlight of my first term.
I enjoyed my marimba lessons, it is my first time playing marimbas and I surely love playing. In each and every lesson I had fun and have quickly found my way around the instrument. My teacher has also been a sweetheart, ensuring that we know all we need to know and being patient with us new students. We are still learning each other and so far I can clearly regard the band as my other family. I am looking forward to the rest of the year and what Marimba Jam has packed for us.” -Andisiwe (Wynberg Girls’ High School Grade 11 2021)
“Fun”-Jenna (Wynberg Girls’ High School Grade 10 2021)
“It’s fun” -Jessica (Springfield Convent School Grade 9 2021
“It’s just a fun place to be with all your friends, and learning the music is awesome” -Khadijah (Wynberg Girls’ High School Grade 8 2021)
“The energy is always very high and everyone’s just so pumped in every lesson “-Kate (Springfield Convent School Grade 9 2021)
“Marimba is fun and brings up my energy levels.” -Cassidy (Springfield Convent School Grade 12 2021)
“I love the sounds of marimbas playing together. Marimbas seemed like a very fun group activity to partake in.” -Gemma (Springfield Convent School Grade 8 2021)
“I think marimba is a fun instrument to play and to listen to, and I love the vibe and feeling when I play” -Jorja (Wynberg Girls’ High School Grade 8 2021)
“My band’s teacher is very energetic and involved during our lessons. Marimba is a very vibrant and lively environment” -Kristen (Wynberg Girls’ High School Grade 9 2022)