Nov. 28, 2014

Vol. 9, Num. 3

Kalimba Magic NEWS

Kings Will Play the Sanza Again!
by Omkar Tandavan

African King
Carving of African king playing a sanza (kalimba)

Have you been to the Branly Museum in Paris? It's the museum of art and civilizations of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. It is the latest museum built in Paris, near the Eiffel Tower.

Access this museum through a dark pathway, turning like a snake and illuminated by beams of swinging words. At the begining of the ramp, there is a room full of bongos and other percussion instruments. You can hear the sounds of the instruments using an app on your phone, there or remotely via website. If you are at Branly museum, you can view small screens that display ethno documentaries.

[Note from Mark: The MIM (Musical Instrument Museum) in Phoenix has a similar approach, with video screens for each country's music and sound feeding into your headphones through wireless.]

The museum is mostly dedicated to masks, cut from trees, and here they form a forest again. There are four sections, one for each continent. The museum is dark and illuminated by lights representing stars. There are no rooms for collections, but at some crossways, curves of brown plastic representing ancient walls. In some corners you can hear music coming from nowhere, traditional groups from Madagascar, Australia or Canada... Exploring this museum makes you travel through time. Masks were carved in every place and were used for all kinds of purposes: initiation, protection, rituals, theatre, jokes, seasons, death & life. They represent the lives of clans, families, ethnies.

I found an interesting piece in the African section. It is a king seated with a sanza (another name for kalimba) in his hands. He has a large hat to cover over his head. The king is playing, showing the way to his subjects, playing the creation around him, taming the sound of creation, the sound of another world, another space, playing a prayer to the originator of life for his people.

In a time when our children are not safe from violence, when the defeated shiver on cruel city streets, when governments serve corporations and fail the people, when families are torn asunder, when half the population requires drugs to sleep and more drugs to face the next day... traditions, values, morals and religions can have much power to reconnect our broken spirits to the meaning of our existence in an inscrutable cosmos. It is time for the kings to play sanza again to remind us of our deepest, most sacred and valuable past.

[Note from Mark: In 2009, I sent a kalimba to President Obama as a gift congratulating him on his trip to the White House. I didn't hear back from him. I'd like to think the Obama daughters got the kalimba, but lately I suspect the Secret Service could have gotten ahold of it, to "protect" the president. So, the king has a sanza, but we don't know if the president has a kalimba or not. I think I would feel safer and more protected if he did have a kalimba!]

Branly Museum
Scene from the Branly Museum


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