PORTLAND’S ORIGINAL HIGH-ENERGY AFRICAN STYLE MARIMBA ENSEMBLE
Boka Marimba is a ten-member dance band that plays exhilarating, positive-energy music from Zimbabwe and other areas of southeastern Africa. The music is in the Shona style: Melodic themes and variations layered in polyrhythmic, cyclic patterns. People, on hearing this music for the first time, have often described the feeling as one of coming home. Some have spoken of dancing for the first time in their lives, or for the first time ever out of the privacy of their living rooms. People of all ages respond with enthusiasm and delight. At one outdoor festival, an elderly gentleman came up and said, “This was some of the best entertainment of my life. I tried to stay seated, but finally had to get up and dance.”
The band’s instrumentation consists of seven marimbas (three sopranos, two tenors, a baritone, and a bass), gourd shakers called hosho, mbira (“thumb piano”), and drums. The songs are sung in the Shona language.
The sheer pleasure of playing is the glue that bonds the band together, and the desire to share this music with others is the fuel that fires Boka Marimba.
HOW THE BAND GOT STARTED
Dumisani “Dumi” Maraire, the late Zimbabwean master musician, composer and ethnomusicologist, brought this music to the Pacific Northwest in the 1960s. Marian Grebanier formed Boka Marimba in 1987 with a group of people from the area who fell in love with the spirit and sound of this music. Dr. Maraire taught the band a large part of its current repertoire. The band later expanded its repertoire with arrangements taught by Ephat Mujuru, Alport Mhlanga, Chris Berry, and others. We also perform original compositions and arrangements in the same style.
THE MEANING OF “BOKA MARIMBA”
In Shona, boka means “group”. And marimba is the plural of rimba which means “wooden voice.”
We play Zimbabwean style marimbas. The keys are made of Padauk, Wenge, Honduras Rosewood, and Cherry. The resonator tubes, made out of PVC pipe, are fitted with cellophane or “space blanket” buzzers that provide the characteristic Zimbabwean sound. They are constructed by band members and by Carl Dean of Portland.
The mbira, a “thumb piano” with 24 metal keys, is the primary traditional instrument of the Shona people. Many of our songs are contemporary adaptations of traditional melodies played on the mbira.
CURRENT BAND MEMBERS
Aisha Beck, Nathan Beck, Eric Berkley, Elgin Dean, Eric Orem, Andy Pinzelik, Ann Pinzelik, Jan Swanson, and Karin Tauscher.
Dancing and playing music brings Aisha Beck much joy. She has played in Boka since 2002 and has managed the band with Karin since 2006. Aisha played guitar and saxophone as a child; now she enjoys the marimba and mbira. Aisha teaches math and theory of knowledge to middle and high school students. She spends time biking, hiking, and caring for cats, both her own and ones at the Cat Adoption Team where she volunteers.
Nathan Beck has been a percussionist since high school. He was very involved in drum and bugle corps (Argonauts and Santa Clara Vanguard) in the 1980′s. After graduating from Lewis & Clark College in 1992, Nathan joined Boka Marimba. He spent 18 months traveling and learning the mbira tradition in Zimbabwe. Some of his teachers include Tute Chigamba, Garadziva Chigamba, Garikayi Tirikoti, Wiri Chigonga, Cosmas Magaya, Musekiwa Chingodza, and Forward Kwenda. Currently, he daylights as a math teacher in the Beaverton School District.
Eric Berkley has been a member of Boka Marimba since the fall of 1994. Eric has played drums and percussion in numerous bands throughout his life. He graduated college from University of Connecticut and currently works as an IT Manager.
Elgin Dean started playing marimba at school in the fourth grade, and joined Boka in 1999 when he was 14 years old. Elgin graduated from Lewis and Clark College in 2008, and now works as the IT Manager for a small non-profit. Most of Boka’s current marimbas were built by Elgin’s dad, Carl Dean.
Eric Orem has been playing percussion for over a decade, which is most of his life at 19. He started playing and making marimbas at 11 and played with a number of groups before joining Boka in 2006. He also plays with Loveness Wesa and Thomas Mapfumo.
Eric Orem – www.padaukdust.com
Andy Pinzelik started playing drums in high school; he added marimba as well as other percussion instruments to his arsenal while attending college. Prior to joining Boka Marimba in 1998, he performed with a number of bands including Rebecca Petit, Mere Mortals, and Jet Jaguar. He currently resides in Portland with his lovely wife and two daughters. During the day he is a mild-mannered attorney with David W. Owens, P.C. & Associates.
Ann Pinzelik hails from Southern California. She’s been singing for as long as she can remember, everything from pop music and classical song to jazz and choral work and studied voice at California State U. Northridge. But it wasn’t until she moved to Portland in 1998, with husband and baby in tow, that she was introduced to the illuminating music of Zimbabwe. She welcomed the opportunity to join Boka in 2000, and she hasn’t looked back!
Jan Swanson has been singing, playing the piano and enjoying music for as long as she can remember. She has been a member of Boka since 1996. She previously worked for many years as an RN at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, and for 8 years was the owner of Java Jan’s coffee shop in NE Portland. Jan currently contracts as an RN testing technician for a group of neuropsychologists. Music, nature, animals, being active, and relaxing at home are among her favorite things.
Karin Tauscher has been a member of Boka Marimba since 2005, and has managed the band with Aisha since 2006. She lives in Hood River, OR. When she’s not commuting to Portland to play with Boka, Karin teaches marimba at her home studio, Musango Marimba Center (www.marimbamusango.com). She lives with her husband and 2 sons, 2 dogs and 2 cats. In addition to playing marimba and mbira, Karin enjoys being outdoors….on the river, in the mountains, or just in the yard; reading, gardening, and spending time with her family.