Polyphony Marimba is a nationally touring marimba ensemble based in Santa Fe, NM. Formed in 2010, yet 25 years in the making, their music vibrantly conveys a deeply personal contemporary sensibility, while drawing from the ancient rhythms and melodies of southern Africa. Touched by the compelling beauty of Zimbabwean music, songs of this region are always part of the set. Their goal is to be true to the music, while giving it their own voice and extending the tradition with other musical influences.
Polyphony Marimba's founder and leader, Peter Swing, first experienced marimba music in 1987 attending a concert in Portland, Oregon-- the experience was an epiphany of what music could be, of a whole new form of instrumentation he did not know existed. Soon afterward he attended his first workshop with the inspiring Zimbabwean teacher Dr. Dumisani Maraire. Maraire was not primarily interested in teaching the traditional songs of his people: he challenged people of non-African heritage to understand the music from the inside out, and play as Africans do. He said, "In order to play our music properly, you must live it." Swing immediately responded to this profound approach; within five years he was teaching the music himself, and directing the band in which he learned the music.
In 1996 Swing moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico to begin the life of a full time musician. As a marimba teacher and instrument builder he and his family began attracting many people to the joyous and fun music of Zimbabwe. This led to the formation of several bands and classes, out of which the members of Polyphony Marimba emerged. His son Raven Swing, having grown up in the music, now plays a leading role musically and contributes original compositions to the band’s repertoire. All the members of the ensemble have studied and performed marimba music seriously over many years. For the last 15 years, Karyna Boyce has been immersed in marimba, drum and dance of Africa. She also has a deep background as a singer and adds her intelligent harmonies and sincere voice to Polyphony's vocal arrangements.
Brian Crane loves being in front of an audience and gives the band a light-hearted stage presence and a solid rhythmical backbone. Besides being a professional musician, he is a gifted teacher and performer of improvisational comedy. Harlin Pierce spent his twelfth birthday auditioning, then performing with Bobby McFerrin; on his fifteenth he was in the recording studio with Polyphony Marimba. Currently studying seven different instruments--and playing them well--his favorite is the marimba.
Polyphony Marimba emerges from a village environment, and this is reflected in its unique multi- generational membership. In the village too, musical instruments are built by master craftsmen; so in this band Swing has crafted a new set of marimbas, the first in North America in the key of E flat. Maraire considered his students to be pioneers, both carrying forward the traditional music of the Shona people of Zimbabwe as well as writing their own songs. Polyphony Marimba is the embodiment of this. In spite of-- or maybe because of-- persistent challenges, their music is stronger than ever and they are excited to share it around the world with anyone ready to hear, dance and join in with the uplifting experience they create.