The origin of the Marimba is uncertain; some believe that it had originated in South East Asia by the 14th Century, and others that it came from Africa. The instrument was brought to South America in the early 16th Century by either African slaves or by pre-Columbian African contacts.
The Marimba is an idiophone that is sounded by striking wooden bars with a mallet. Its name is derived from Bantu languages in which "rimba" suggests a "flattish object sticking out" such as a note or key, and "ma" is a cumulative prefix; thus, "marimba" is equivalent to many keys.
Early Marimbas were made of wooden bars or keys, with resonating gourds suspended below. Each gourd was individually tuned to the primary pitch of its corresponding key. The gourd was interiorly fitted with a mirliton or natural membrane (tripa de puerco) which created the buzzing or reverberating sound for which the Marimba is known. These traditional Marimbas are still made in rural villages, mainly in Guatemala and Mexico, and are usually played either by attaching the instrument to a frame with wooden legs or by hanging it from the player’s waist.
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