Marimbas and marimba-like instruments are found throughout the world. Around 1960, Kwanongoma College of African Music was started in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, in part to help preserve traditional Zimbabwean music and an ensemble of marimbas was designed to hopefully become a new national instrument. The marimbas used by Maine Marimba Ensemble are based on those developed at Kwanongoma College. Many of Maine Marimba Ensemble’s arrangements come from the musicians who studied and taught there.
The wood used for the bars of a marimba typically come from tropical hardwood trees. Maine Marimba Ensemble’s marimba’s bars are made from padauk, purpleheart, wenge, honduran mahogany, and (probably) douglas fir. The pitch of each bar is mainly determined by its length and thickness. The bars rest on the frame at their "nodes," the spot where there is no vibration from the basic pitch of the bar.
The buzzing that you hear is a purposeful addition to the sound of the Zimbabwean-style marimbas and is a sound common to much African music. To create the effect, Maine Marimba Ensemble’s instruments have a small piece of a plastic shopping bag covering a hole at the end of the resonating tube that hangs below each bar of the marimbas.
Hosho are the gourd rattles. The gourds are maranka, or dinosaur, gourds. They are filled with either hota, seeds from canna lilies, or popcorn. The hosho are traditionally played with Shona mbira music.
Maine Marimba Ensemble’s instruments were built by one of the band's members, Jacob.