The warm, resonant and sometimes loud sounds of an 11-piece marimba band filled the air at Cozmic Tuesday April 22, and for a very good cause. The proceeds from its extensive touring contribute to the tuition and expenses necessary for sending orphaned African students to universities around the world. In the audience were a group of Lane students from the Music in World Cultures class taught by Joshua Humphrey.

The Maru-a-Pula Marimba Band show was one of several “out-of-class listening experiences” recommended by Humphrey. Hearing and seeing music from different cultures in a “live” setting and chatting with the players after the show always generates a deeper, more emotional connection than simply hearing a CD or viewing a YouTube clip. At a small venue like Cozmic, you can actually meet people from across the globe and gain a better sense of their lives. In this setting, music can definitely be a true learning experience.

The band consists of students from the Maru-a-Pula high school, located in Botswana, which currently has 20 orphans among its 600 students. The school’s goal is to have 40 such students by 2016.

In Botswana, one in five children are orphaned either by war or AIDS, so this project has a significantly positive impact on the lives of many students. The school also funds the project from its tuition fees, as well as from a variety of contributors both local and international. Maru-a-Pula students have graduated from top universities such as Columbia, Princeton, Williams, Stanford, MIT and Oxford, where they’ve placed two Rhodes scholars.

If you’ve never been to a marimba band performance, I highly recommend putting it on your list of musical experiences not to be missed. The sound produced by these mostly wooden instruments is rich and mellow, covering a wide dynamic range. The various marimbas are of different sizes producing everything from high notes to bass notes, chords and single note melody lines, which combine to create the different parts of each song. Marimba bands are like a giant piano played by several people.

The student musicians were obviously having loads of fun during their high-spirited and enthusiastic performance. As this atmosphere spread throughout the sizable crowd at Cozmic, their highly rhythmic sound made it virtually impossible not to dance. And by the way, the Lane contingent certainly made its presence felt on the dance floor! This was a fine night for all concerned.