Martin Doyle is bound for the East African nation of Tanzania this coming August to take part in the production of a radio programme.
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:
Nina Perry – music, sound and radio.
“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.”
“Nina Perry takes a musical journey tracing the wood used in making musical instruments back to the forest, from an Irish flute maker and a Los Angeles-based guitarist to the Mpingo Conservation Project in Tanzania.” – BBC Radio 4.
Unfortunately Sounding Post is not currently available online ( since early 2015, it can be heard here: Sounding Post ). The two excerpts that have been added to Martin’s web site feature Martin talking about flute making and playing music on a ‘fresh off the lathe’ flute. The tune that Martin plays during the course of the interview is called Na Ceannabháin Bhána.
And on that note, here is a video clip that offers another version of Na Ceannabháin Bhána played by the late Kitty Hayes (concertina) and Clare piper Peter Laban (Uilleann pipes). Recorded in May 2008 at Miltown Malbay in County Clare, Kitty and Peter play two slip jigs actually – the afore mentioned Na Ceannabháin Bhána and also Hardiman the Fiddler. Enjoy…
Here I am in County Clare, Ireland, and staying with my friend Martin Doyle for a few days. I have brought Martin three sticks of Kanuka wood that were kindly given to me by Paul Whinray – a recorder maker who lives in West Auckland, New Zealand. The Kanuka wood was cut, bored and turned into round sticks by Paul in the late 1980s so it is well cured.
Martin set me to work on preparing the sticks and with the kind guidance of his son Ógi, and Martin doing all the critical work, we produced a wonderful flute. It has a lovely tone (milder than the hardwoods like African Blackwood and Cocus) that I am sure will develop nicely with playing. The end cap of the flute is made of Cocus wood. Here’s a look at it:
Martin Doyle Irish flute made from New Zealand kanuka wood – click the image to see a larger version.