Kufara Marimba Band to play Crawford State Park concert

Jonathan Riley
Morning Sun
Kufara Marimba, a group of musicians from the Joplin area, will be performing African music from the Shona culture of Zimbabwe at Crawford State Park this Saturday.

PITTSBURG, Kan. — The Friends of Crawford State Park will not only have their regularly scheduled Friday music event at the Lake View Café patio this week, which will feature a performance by Kent Dorsey, but will also host a special guest performer on Saturday: Kufara Marimba Band. 

Dr. Ree Wells-Lewis, a sociology professor at Missouri Southern State University, along with John Wynhausen, is an original member of Kufara Marimba Band, which plays traditional Zimbabwean music. 

“‘Kufara’ means ‘to be joyous, to be happy,’ so it’s joyful and happy music,” Wells-Lewis said. “We have about seven or eight instruments at any given time — a bass, a baritone, two or three sopranos and two or three tenors, and we have drums, and we have shakers, which we call hosho.” 

Wells-Lewis originally started Kufara Marimba Band with Kyla Jones from Seattle, Washington, the former leader of the band, after meeting her shortly after moving to Joplin from Louisiana in the 1990s. Since then, members have come and gone, usually either because they’ve retired or moved away. 

“About a decade ago Kyla made a decision to move back to the Pacific Northwest, and we thought the band might just fizzle,” Wells-Lewis said. 

In 2011, however, Maria Minnaar Bailey moved to Joplin, and turned out to be the perfect fit to become Kufara Marimba’s new band leader. 

“She grew up in Zimbabwe. Her parents were missionaries and ethnomusicologists, and so her father was very involved in making marimbas,” Wells-Lewis said. “At least half of the marimbas that we have, her father made and they were shipped from Zimbabwe to the United States.” 

Kufara Marimba’s performance at Crawford State Park will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, July 17. Musicians play for tips only, so concert attendees are asked to please tip generously. 

“It’s a cultural event as well as a music performance,” Wells-Lewis said of the show planned for Saturday. 

“It will be a wonderful opportunity for Crawford State Park and we hope to have a great turn-out,” President of the Friends of Crawford State Park Joe Bournonville said in an email. He also noted that Kent Dorsey will be playing Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the regularly scheduled Friday Music on the Lake event. 

“For the last couple of years, Kent has been playing with son Gracin,” Bournonville said. “This year Gracin is unable to be here. We're excited to have Kent entertain us on Friday evening.”