The Music Tree Airs On Newstalk

The Different Voices series on Ireland’s Newstalk 106-108 FM radio station continues with The Music Tree – a documentary featuring the Irish flute maker Martin Doyle.

Martin Doyle in Tanzania.

Martin Doyle in Tanzania.

As a young man, Martin Doyle travelled from his native Bray in County Wicklow to Africa. He was employed as a ships engineer for a couple of years – a job he took to raise much needed funds to purchase expensive tools and machinery for his dream of developing a flute making business in the early 1980s. The hard work and time away from Ireland paid off, and as the years have passed, the dream has blossomed into a reality.

Now an established and highly respected flute maker living in County Clare, Martin decided to revisit East Africa where African Blackwood (Mpingo as it is known in Tanzania), the timber that Martin makes most of his flutes from, is grown. There he hopes to visit the forests where the Mpingo grows, to meet those whose livelihoods depend upon it. He also hopes to make an Irish flute with the help of local craftsmen in a Tanzanian workshop – quite possibly a world first!

Martin Doyle at the workshop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Martin Doyle at the workshop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. From left: Martin, Focus Senga, Salim and James Laizer.

About Mpingo

The English names for the Mpingo tree are African Blackwood or grenadilla (botanical: Dalbergia melanoxylon). Considered sacred in East Africa, the leaves of the Mpingo tree have medicinal properties. And although it is the national tree of Tanzania, Mpingo is constantly under threat of exploitation because its dark, lustrous heartwood is one of the most valuable timbers in the world. An exemplary and durable tonewood, Mpingo is used extensively a soundboards for guitars and various stringed instruments, and for making woodwind instruments such as clarinets, oboes, bagpipes and flutes. Unfortunately it is also misused in many ways. The Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative and other organisations are working with community groups to try to conserve these endangered forests by promoting sustainable and socially equitable harvesting of Mpingo. Martin’s journey from County Clare to Tanzania, documented in The Music Tree, charts a musical, environmental and socio-economic challenge.

Martin Doyle and friends stand before a mature Mpingo tree.

Martin Doyle and friends stand before a mature Mpingo tree near the village of Kikoli in Tanzania.

Listen To The Music Tree

The Music Tree which was produced by Nina Perry and Falling Tree Productions for the Different Voices programme on Newstalk 106-108 FM in Ireland. It was first aired on Saturday December 19 2009 and can now be heard here: The Music Tree »

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2 thoughts on “The Music Tree Airs On Newstalk

  1. pearlz

    Found this extremely interesting – my daughter is playing a traditional flute, but I am sure she would love hearing this story.

  2. Benny Templeton

    Great to hear this show, well done Martin Doyle. I do hope it raises awareness among those who use Mpingo and effects how we think about purchasing this precious timber. Must have been a unique experience for you Martin.
    Cheers, Benny T.


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