That official beginning of summer is inching closer and closer on the calendar and that means dance parties loading up the days and nights is bound to be on the agenda! This week's Radio Roulette spin has landed on an atypical but no-less-danceable tune from Austin's own Kupira Marimba!
“Skokiana” (popular tune composed by August Msarurgwa in 1947)
Austin, Texas is a city steeped in southern tradition, southern flair, and is a well known location that is far and away from the African continent. Thinking of the two places, perhaps the one immediate commonality might be a shared affair with high temperatures? Still, even with Austin's very southern cultural markers, the town is one that boasts an increasingly notable layer of diversity that can be found through everything from dress, to food, and of course, to music.
In this way, if someone were to start raving in downtown Austin, about an eight person band that is all about traditional African music for the marimba, the idea of such a scene might not feel out of place. Indeed, the octet of Kupira Marimba (Rakefet Avramovitz, Stephen Brueggerhoff, Sam Chaney, Peter Breithaupt, Michael Stephen Hardin, James Mussman, Kimberly Taylor, Kristin Royce Stancato), which first came together in 2012, is practically built on what half its name implies. While not a staple instrument of the conventional rock or pop band, the marimba isn't so uncommon as to be unknown in western musical canon. Full orchestras, as well as percussive ensembles often include this large, wooden cousin of the xylophone.
Kupira Marimba could not have chosen a better tune for including into the group's very niche repertoire. Completely instrumental in nature, Skokiana (sometimes seen written as Skoiaan) is a composition that was composed decades ago by August Msarurgwa, who is from the African nation of Zimbabwe. A track exceeding four minutes in length, Skokiana never feels like too much, despite it's lengthy track time. Every moment is upbeat, and the music never takes a downtrodden turn. Marimbas of varying tonal registers overlap with delicately unison tones while the rudder of hand percussion in the form of shakers creates beats that off-set, but stay in time, with the main melody. There are moments when the song might seem like a beautiful “run on sentence,” if you will, but every once in a while, there is a recurring four tone descent that almost serves as a hook and bringing a focal point back to the music.
The tune itself is a perfect fit for Kupira Marimba's speciality and as a song that has been covered and rearranged by many instruments, the group's rendition definitely does not come across as tired in a line of many covers of “Skokiana” over the years. The air of refreshment around the song might have something to do with Kupira Marimba's very organic element. Marimbas themselves sound very natural, due to their wooden construction and style of play but beyond that, the tools of the trade for this group are also entirely handmade by the band's own musical director, Joel Laviolette.
Get more info on Kupira Marimba and listen in for “Skokiana” spinning in GigTown Radio's rotation! If you love what you hear, be sure to look up Kupira Marimba in GigTown to book the band for a gig and or catch their next show!