Frequently Asked Questions

What if I'm not musical, or have never played an instrument?

At Bopoma we believe that everyone is musical in nature, and can enjoy playing music with others. If this music moves you, most likely you will be able to learn to play it at Bopoma. In most African cultures everyone participates in making music, by singing, clapping, dancing, or playing an instrument. Everyone in the community plays a role in creating the experience. Prior musical training, especially in the form of percussion, can be an asset by training the ear to listen and familiarizing a student with learning various rhythms. However, in some ways, musical training may be distracting. People trained in Western music (classical or jazz, for instance) may want to fit African music into the system they know. Although there are some similarities, it takes years of steeping ourselves in the music before we get a good sense of this particular style.

Do I need to have my own instrument? Will I need to get an instrument to practice on?

Instruments are provided at the Centre for all classes. We can also put you in touch with resources if you're interested in buying or building your own. While it isn't necessary to own an instrument, it is important to find a way of embodying the rhythms and melodies that you learn in Bopoma's classes. Students who take a little time at home outside of class to work on their parts will find they have an easier time learning and remembering parts in class. If you can sing a part, you have it! Some students take audio recordings in class and listen back while driving or doing the dishes. If you have a keyboard, you can pick out your parts on that.

How is the music taught?

At Bopoma, we learn by ear, as is the tradition of African cultures. We use no written music. The songs we learn generally consist of two or four phrases repeated. In a class we will learn each instrument's part and work on combining them to create the song. We'll also learn a bit of the history of the music and the culture it comes from, and some techniques to help you play the marimba well.

Is it hard to learn?

The Zimbabwean and South African music you will begin playing at Bopoma is very accessible. Students are able to play a simple part with seven other people and have great satisfaction, after only a few classes. During the first couple years of study the repertoire of songs is relatively straightforward. Students may learn all or just a part of the song depending on their capabilities and time to practice. As you learn and become more familiar with the music there will be opportunities to play more challenging material. Like all great musical forms, this music offers the student limitless opportunities to discover it's many intricacies and secrets. Indeed, as teachers we see ourselves as perpetual students of this music.

How old do kids have to be to start?

Some very young children possess an amazing ability to learn the lines and rhythms of marimba music. However, the ability to function within a group and learn together seems to take more maturity. At Bopoma we offer youth classes for children 12 and older. Typically, younger students wanting to learn begin studying marimba in private or small group lessons. These students then progress into group classes when ready. Typically a child who hears marimba and tells their parents they would like to learn to play will find success in our classes. (in contrast to families in which it's the parents' idea that the child learn the music). This is probably true for all musical instruments! Zimbabwean music provides a wonderful complement to "Western instruments" your child might be studying, because everything is learned by ear, the rhythms and interlocking parts are enthralling and (at least initially) fine motor control is not essential. Learning music at Bopoma also exposures kids to the history and culture of Zimbabwe.

What about learning to play mbira?

Much of the marimba repertoire is inspired by, or comes directly from, mbira; learning to play this ancient instrument and its traditional repertoire is rewarding for marimba players and non-marimba players alike. The Cowichan Valley is home to a growing contingent of mbira players, so chances are you'll find opportunities to play with others outside of class.

How much do classes cost?

Bopoma has 12 week terms in fall, winter, and spring (the summer schedule varies). Tuition for a 12 week term of weekly classes (each 1.5 hours long) varies by location - please contact us for up to date information.

When can I start?

We start new adult and youth marimba, mbira and gumboot dance classes in fall term. During the year, it may be possible for new students to join an ongoing class, or if there is enough demand a new class may be offered.