Magic Marimbas in Argentina

June 01, 2018 | Boys’ Preparatory

An administrative glitch resulted in the band's musical instruments being stuck in Buenos Aires, but some Saints 'magic' happened next.... 

Tener mala leche’

Literally meaning ‘to have bad milk’, used for any unfortunate or unlucky situation – Argentinean slang.

On the 20th of May, the St Stithians Boys' Prep Marimba set off to participate in a musical festival in the small town of Puerto Iguazú in Argentina, South America. This concert “Iguazu’ in Concert” is an international festival of Children & Youth Orchestras & Choirs, gathering together 700 students from more than 20 countries. Puerto Iguazú is approximately 1300 kilometres from Buenos Aires. The festival program included two African pieces arranged and conducted by our very own Mr Mike Sibanda, with our Marimba Band performing a solo accompanied by the grand orchestra and choir.

The Marimbas were duly packed, processed and shipped off to Buenos Aires well before the boys left. Mike Sibanda left on Tuesday 15th May, to facilitate the unloading, transport and tuning of the musical instruments, so that when the boys arrived on Monday the 21st practice could begin.

The boys arrived in Puerto Iguazu’, together with travelling staff, Mrs Les Humphrey, Mrs Phillipa Bragge and Mr Altus Moolman – however the Marimbas had not. They were still in Buenos Aires, the victims of bureaucracy and a civil servant, speaking Spanish, who was not very civil. Calls were made to Embassies, high ranking government officials in both Argentina and South Africa, contacts, friends, family – basically anybody that could help release them. Nothing could budge an obstinate official.

In true African ‘maak ‘n plan’ style, Mike Sibanda gathered together a group of locals and he, and his ‘new crew’ managed, under enormous pressure, to manufacture brand new marimbas, using local hardwoods and materials. This enabled our fantastic Marimba Band to wow the crowd at the musical festival, and to make our boys into ‘rock stars’, with groupies and adoring fans! What a story to tell!

Here is an excerpt from a local newspaper: (missionary – people of the Misiones Province in Argentina).

 Monday, May 28, 2018 21:45:49

The "missionary" marimbas thrilled at the closing of Iguazú in Concert

May 26, 2018 8:23 pm

The sound of the marimbas, unknown in these latitudes, thrilled spectators who were united by the throbbing of music, a universal language that knows no borders. The missionary marimba of the St Stithians Boys Marimba Band, unwittingly, stole the attention of the ninth edition of the Iguazú & Concert, which again brought together 700 children and teenagers from different parts of the world to, together, play the best songs of the mixture of cultures.  Why missionaries? The original marimbas that the South Africans sent over for their tour, remained unusually retained in the Argentine Customs, whose bureaucracy clearly does not understand art or culture. The marimbas that were played on the stage by these young South African were made in Iguazú, with hard missionary wood and in record time: 20 in just ten days, when the usual manufacturing average is two months. A missionary carpenter is now a specialist in marimbas (an idiophone percussion instrument, similar to a xylophone).

"This was an unprecedented experience in the region. It is an instrument that has never been made in the country" said Liliana De La Pica, general producer of the show.

With no more tools than a South African plane and much missionary will, in a week, a group of brave artisans, guided by the technical support of maestro Michael Sibanda, built a score of these unique instruments.

The feat had its epicentre in the carpentry shop "La Aripuca", where, the hands and experience of Daniel Dal Ri, received more than twenty volunteer missionaries willing to work so that the dream of the South African boys did not collapse. If this story were to be told in numbers, the story would include 278 tuned pieces of woods, 278 sealed pipes of different sizes, 19 custom supports, 38 extendable legs, 556 screws and nuts, 374 rubber rings, 24 South African boys, 23 fathers and mothers of these "Symphonic Crickets", 46 laborious hands, a carpentry in Andresito, another one in Iguazú and seven days of search for materials and wood. Just some of the things that happen at Iguazú in Concert.

Finally the crowd witnessed the closing of the show that lasted a week in the city of Puerto Iguazú. This time the stage did not have a backdrop to the Falls, since the Meliá hotel –formally the Sheraton - is in the middle of a remodelling phase to become the best hotel in Argentina.

(Translated from Spanish)

We look forward to welcoming back our intrepid band of tourists on Sunday 3 June.