Glad rhythms — how can I describe the sound for you? Eight marimbas are cascading tones like summer rain. Within a few beats, most of the audience is on their feet. We’re masked, and we’re keeping careful distance, but we’re dancing together.
The room is basking in the energy of college students cheering their friends at the solos. It’s a Friday night, dropping down from 20 degrees with a keen edge to the wind, and the Zambezi Marimba Band are playing live.
They’re surrounded by brass and jazz piano and drums. The band has more marimba players than marimbas, so at the begining of every song the musicians change over with a flexibility that feels casual. It’s been a long time since I felt this charge — performers handing the music back and forth in buoyant confidence, like old friends sharing inside jokes.
A young man and woman are singing jazz, trading lines at microphones across the room from each other. A violinist sends the descant overhead, high and fast and impossibly fluid. The bandeader, Tendai Muparutsa, is singing a contemporary song from Zimbabwe in his clear, carrying tenor. And for an hour the night is warm.
Tendai Muparutsa, leader of the Zambezi Marimba Band, is an internationally known performer, ethnomusicologist and bandleader, and he’s here, leading the band as an artist in residence at Williams College. These photos above are all press images courtesy of Williams College and the ’62 Center for Theater and Dance. All the pandemic precautions are in place, and Williams College events are only open to the college this semester for safety, students and faculty and staff, and because I’m putting in a few hours a week with oral histories here, I had the chance to hear them. And we have live music around us …