Why root production?
A.M. RootsProduction, like all names is something that you grow into as time goes on. When I made my very first Zula in the summer of 1995 with my friend Axel in France we had only one saw blade, a few planks of wood, two tin cans, some glue, a few screws and strips of metal that we found in an old junk yard. We laughed at our selves calling it “roots production”. Over the years I understand more and more why this name speaks to me and my own personal story. Having been brought up on the island of Barbados (near Jamaica) in the Caribbean sea the word was often heard in association with the Rastafarian movement that I saw develop around me during my childhood. In that context it was about a people trying to reconnect to their origin people who roots had been cut. As I grew up and moved from one country and culture to another I felt very up rooted; not knowing where I was from or where I was going until I got into music. This helped me root myself in the here and now and connect with others through the universal language of music.
The truth is I could write a book about what the word Roots means to me. Roots Production started in the soil from one small seed. We have always done things naturally with slow and steady grown nurtured by simple humanity and love. Roots is about something that draws its strength from some where deeper than what you can see. Roots Production is about a huge tree. Each person who byes one of our instruments is a part of this tree that connects us together in music.
Can you tell a little more about you, where are you from, who was your parents?
A.M. I was brought up on a beach on small island. Life was simple and close to nature. My parents built a hotel and I saw them do many different jobs all at the same time. I was a small family business but people from all parts of the world came to stay there.
When you started to produce musical instruments and why you decided to produce African tongue instruments like mbira?
A.M. I started making instruments in 1996. I wanted to make something simple and accessible to all. I started with kalimba because their sound was so magical.
Have you ever performed on scene or do you have any recordings?
A.M. I have played in a number of musical formations, steel band, latino, African, reagea, rock and pop.
Producing instruments.. Is it hobby or it is the work which helps you to pay your bills….
A.M. Producing instruments is a passion that is developing into an enterprise.
Do you have plans to recreate more African instruments? if yes, please provide details.
A.M. Yes I have made, can make, and plan to make other instruments, ghoni, kora, cajons, frame drums as well as inventing new instruments.
Which tuning is your favorite one?
A.M. I have many different tunings that I like but the classic one that seems to fit most situations is Amin penta
Do you play your instruments, when you stay alone?
A.M. Yes I play my thumb pianos all the time I also play guitar and sing
What do you think, Kalimba is souvenir or full musical instrument and suits to be included for example in jazz or ethnic bands?
A.M. Kalimba can be many things. It’s for anyone from a child to an old person or a beginner to pro musician. I have seen it used in traditional music off cause but also jazz, in techno, anywhere. But most important to me is that some people would love to enter the magical forest of music but say “I am not a musical person” and remain stuck there. Kalimba is for them! Anyone can pluck a note on a kalimba and when they do a smile comes over their face. I have seen it happen a thousand times and I makes me happy every time. Such a small intimate instrument that produces a sound that touches the soul. The kalimba goes straight to the heart. Music that comes from the heart will go to the heart. What more is there to strive for?
Do you have team of workers, who help you to produce this amazing thumb-pianos, or you are alone and arrange everything yourself?
A.M. I have been working mainly alone but these last years I had help from a friend Alexis with the wood working and varnish any my step son Lucas helped with design and decoration. Also I am teaching a young man, Prakash in India to make the tines and carve the wood I have now set up a small work shop for him there. This has helped roots live up to the “Production” side of its name and we are producing more instruments now to meet the demand.
How many type of kalimbas you produce?
A.M. As of this year we make about 50-70 instruments a month
Can you tell me more about why you titled your instruments like Afrozula, Zenzula etc…
A.M. I had to find a name for this very special kind of kalimba with its metal oval shaped body and hang like sound. I chose the word Zula because means to be in a cool peaceful place. That Zulu can be Zen, Afro, Aqua, Electro and I am sure we will have many more different kinds of Zulas comping out as time goes on.
Which materials do you use?
A.M. Wood and metal but I use all kinds of materials that are recycled too; like cans, cigar boxes, salad bowls aluminium soda cans, used electrical wire, etc . The recycled material is the roots production touch. Turning junk into gold feel great.
Can you tell the history, which materials you have used before and which materials do you use now. What is the difference?
A.M. The materials are pretty much the same but keep evolving, the kind wood we use, the varnish, the type of steel, the kind microphones we use for the pic ups etc.
Do you use special equipment to produce tines, or you do it handmade?
A.M. Hand made is the Roots Production thing. Everything is hand made and hand decorated. All the tines are beaten out on an anvil. Each note is individually made and if you look closely you will see that no two are exactly the same. The kalimba is an instrument that you hold directly in front of you. You spend a lot of time just meditating on it. I think it is like a being of its own and it looks back at you. It has to look, feel and sound like no one else. I like to call our creations musical totems rather than just instruments. The word instrument has a cold clinical aspect to it. It is not alive. I believe our musical totems, even when they are not being played are radiating a magical presence.
Do you plan to produce other models, which will have bigger resonator from wood and top made of some quality goat skin?
A.M. Yes I plan to make bigger and more complexed models.
What do you love more due making this instruments? Tuning? Drawing? Packing? maybe shipping to client? 🙂
A.M. I love many aspects of the work as well as meeting all kinds of people thanks to the Zula. It’s a wonderful adventure. How blessed we are.