Definition of marimba in US English:



  • A deep-toned xylophone of African origin. The modern form was developed in the US c.1910.

    • ‘‘Maybe we'll have some congas and bongos, marimba and vibraphones, a bass drum, cow bells - perhaps a Chinese gong,’ she said, thoughtfully.’
    • ‘A marimba group is made up of half a dozen musicians, two of them playing large, wooden marimbas, which resemble xylophones.’
    • ‘Pattern Transformation, for four players on two marimbas, is a wonderful opener.’
    • ‘Bernard explains that the marimba originated with the African balophone, which was brought to central America by African slaves, and then altered by the Spanish influence.’
    • ‘He has also vibrated bridges: steel bridges sound similar to bells; wooden ones are more like a big marimba or xylophone.’
    • ‘The erhu, accordion, balafon, flute, marimba, and numerous other cultural instruments, are blended together.’
    • ‘I learned to play, a little bit of banjo-mandolin, but there was a xylophone or marimba in my room so I when I was quite little I learned to play that.’
    • ‘Many of the songs feature marimba, and a xylophone is even used as lead melody in the intro to ‘Red Rain.’’
    • ‘Ongoing difficulties with providing professional-quality instruments, especially a five-octave marimba, played a part in the decision.’
    • ‘A group of versatile young musicians, their sound includes marimbas and African drums, and they have played at a variety of occasions, including Nelson Mandela's birthday party.’
    • ‘The use of the orchestra now seems relatively conventional - no tam tams, marimbas, electric guitars or any of the other extraneous noises that are so popular with the contemporary gang.’
    • ‘For much of the evening, however, the main pleasure lies in hearing the adaptation, under Charles Hazelwood's musical direction, of English folk tunes to South African marimbas and drums.’
    • ‘The rest of his section is made up of keyboards, marimba, acoustic guitar, African kora and percussion, with Gospel choir to come.’
    • ‘In Fertility Rites, sampled throat songs play counterpoint games with a marimba; in Hunter's Dream, they are combined with flute samples.’
    • ‘However, the decay on real xylophones and marimbas is so long that the counterpoint gets muddied.’
    • ‘The most popular musical instrument now is the marimba, which is similar to the xylophone.’
    • ‘The latter successfully combined the African marimba in a long movement through less melodic but more textural layers of the beautiful Chinese instruments' sounds.’
    • ‘The beautiful sounds of the Welsh Male Voice Choir of South Africa will drift across the lake's waters, while the Meropa Basadi group will play carols on marimbas and drums, giving the occasion a memorable African feel.’
    • ‘It also has a small number of strings and a sizable percussion section which includes marimbas, steel drums and an African drum called a Djembe.’
    • ‘Here the group combines trombone, a simplistic guitar line, and what sounds like either a marimba or a xylophone.’


Early 18th century: from Kimbundu, perhaps via Portuguese.