Travelling to Andover from the Maru-a-Pula School in Botswana, a group of student percussionists players performed in Kemper Auditorium in last Sunday night.
The students, ranging in age from 14 to 19, played multiple marimbas and several other instruments to present a bright nine song concert.
The group came to Andover on one part of a “marimba tour, according to Andrew Taylor, the Principal of the Maru-a-Pala School. He said that the group was on tour to raise money for the school’s orphan and vulnerable children scholarship fund.
“Marimba music is the most joyful music I’ve ever listened to, and this is the third time I’ve had the chance to chaperone a marimba tour. I always feel like this is the best way to spend a holiday because the impact this group has is quite extraordinary,” said Taylor in his introduction of the group at the concert.
Alport K Mhlanga Astazio, a performer in and the director of the group, introduced each of the pieces and explained the diwfferent instruments involved in each performance. He explained that the music is meant to have elicit a strong emotional response.
“Watch, hear, feel and see the music…in the songs. There is vocalization, but it is not singing. We are a marimba band, not a marimba choir. But these instruments [marimbas] are a choir…the music is here to move you,” said Astazio.
The ensemble’s first piece, “Place of Music,” drew the audience into the performance with cheerful melodies and interaction with the audience.
The second piece, titled “Five,” brought dramatic dynamics, starting out softly with a simple melody that repeated and accelerated into a dramatic and powerful ending.
During the fifth piece, the “Marching Song,” several audience members marched and danced around the auditorium, following the music played by the students on stage.
This piece left a markedly joyful, excited mood in the air.
When the last note of the final piece resonated throughout the auditorium, the audience members gave an enthusiastic standing ovation to the performers.
After the performance, the students on the stage introduced themselves and talked about their lives at the Maru-a-Pula School in Botswana.
“The boarding house is like a home away from home because you go to the cafeteria and all the ladies are always happy to see you and they always know you by name and have nicknames. It’s a nice school because there’s not a lot of people so everybody knows everybody…it’s a really close-knit community,” said one of the performers.
The name Maru-a-Pula means “clouds of rain” or “promises of blessing” in Setswana, and the institution is a world-class co-ed school founded in 1972 to be a model for non-racial education is southern Africa.