Marimbula – The Cuban Thumb Piano

By Jon Griffin

The Marimbula belongs to sansa family of that originated from the Bantu cultures of sub-Saharan Africa. The sansa instruments create sound by plucking or striking the metal fingers. Sansas also include the Kalimba or African thumb piano. Unlike the Kalimba, the Marímbula can be easily tuned and therefore used harmonically as well as rhythmically.

The Marimbula is basically a large wooden box with holes on the front. There is a bridge that the metal fingers lay upon. On top of this a pressure bar holds the metal fingers in place. By plucking the metal fingers, sound vibrations are transmitted through the bridge and into the hollow body of the instrument. The body acts as a resonator amplifying the sound.

To tune their instrument, the player loosens the pressure bar on the marimbula and moves the metal fingers up or down. This effectively changes the pitch to the desired tone.Normally the player straddles the box and plucks the tabs.

Musical Examples

Here is a sample of how the Cuban marimbula sounds when playing son montuno:

Recorded Examples

Con Sabor Al Guaso

Official Retrospective Of Cuban Music

 

This post is also available in: Spanish