Flutes for Africa
Tanzania is home to the famed Mpingo tree from which the highly valued timber known as African Blackwood is harvested. This wood has been one of the first choices for woodwind instruments such as clarinets, oboes, bag pipes and flutes for over 150 years now, but was also valued by furniture making as far back as the time of the Egyptians. It is a timber favoured for it’s density, durability and exceptional tonal qualities.
Martin Doyle is to feature in a radio programme to be called The Music Tree that is being produced for the Irish radio station Newstalk. The project is being headed by Nina Perry (who also produced Sounding Post which looks at the use of wood for instruments and featured several instrument makers including Martin Doyle) for Falling Tree Productions. This from Nina Perry:
“The Music Tree is to accompany Irish flute-maker Martin Doyle from County Clare to eastern Tanzania where he plans to demonstrate Irish flute making so that accomplished local craftsmen might learn his skills to boost the economy surrounding this rare wood and, for the first time, hear the sound of instruments made from the local blackwood trees.”
The plan is to set up a workshop so that Martin will be able to make a flute while in Tanzania. He will also be visiting places where the trees grow and meet the people who tend the trees. Our thanks to the intrepid Nina Perry for her update and we look forward to further news as the production of The Music Tree unfolds…
Regarding Mpingo Conservation
The Mpingo tree is also found in Kenya, where it is considered to be severely threatened. In Tanzania and Mozambique, Mpingo is doing better but is in need of conservation management as it is being harvested at an unsustainable rate, partly because of illegal smuggling into Kenya, but also because the tree takes upwards of 60 years to mature. There are two organisations involved in the conservation of African blackwood, the Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative and the African Blackwood Conservation Project. The following video clip is from Sound and Fair – a campaign to realise a sustainable trade in African blackwood.