Kutandara fuses ancient African music traditions with Latin, jazz, gospel, classical, and world folk influences. Our exuberant and hi-energy polyrhythmic performances manage to be innovative and deeply-rooted at the same time.
Our exhilarating and eclectic set allows Kutandara to share the stage with a wide range of performers working in a variety of genres. These include: JAKA (Afro-pop), Fara Tolno (Les Merveilles de Guinea), The Motet (jazz-funk), The Boulder Chorale (classical), the B52s (rock), St. John's Episcopal Choir (liturgical), Rujeko Dumbutshena (African Dance), Chris Daniels & The Kings (blues), Kan'nal (tribal psychedelic rock),Wendy Woo (folk rock), and Stanley Jordan (jazz).
A marimba ensemble performance is dramatic musically and visually. Kutandara works with a variety of instruments, songs, and dances from around the world. Primary inspiration and influence comes from the Shona peoples of southern Africa.
A Shona proverb states "If you can talk you can sing, if you can walk you can dance." Kutandara takes this motto to the max, teaching audiences a song, dance step, or rhythm accompaniment at every show. The result is an all-ages participatory performance guaranteed to delight the eyes, ears, feet and heart.
The music itself comes from both traditional and contemporary composers working in an unbroken musical tradition going back well over 1000 years. Often two or more mbira and/or marimbas are played together to create the complex interlocking melodies and rhythms known as “hocketing.” Western ears familiar with gospel and jazz will recognize the roots of those forms in the call-and-response and improvisational structure of many of the pieces Kutandara performs.
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.