Protecting the Heart of the Marimba

At the heart of a marimba one™ marimba is the Honduras Rosewood Keyboard. The richly colored and faintly aromatic rosewood is universally known for its beauty, durability and sound quality. It is the most resonant wood in the world. 

However, Honduras Rosewood is an endangered species, with illegal poaching and overharvesting driving it closer to extinction each day. Rosewood is the world’s most illegally trafficked wild product, mainly due to demand from the hardwood furniture industry. A 2016 analysis by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reveals that Rosewood makes up 35% of all illegal seizures by value.

Traditionally, instrument makers buy their rosewood from dealers, but then all instrument makers have to compete for the same wood. It was around 2008 when Samuels realized that he would have to take drastic action if he wanted to have enough high-quality rosewood to continue making his world-class marimbas long into the future.

“I knew it was time to take a road unchartered,” Samuels said. In a leap of faith, he got on a plane to Central America where, after following multiple leads, he made contact with the Mayan community. It took Samuels two days to make the trip, but at last he found the remote village on the outskirts of a jungle rich with rosewood.

Samuels worked closely with his contacts in the Mayan village to maximize the lumber from each log. He sent a new band saw mill along with over 100 band saw blades to Central America. It took several years and countless trips, but at last he got the mill up and running.  

Now, marimba one™ has enough rosewood to make marimbas for the next ten years. Samuels and his master tuners still make the journey to Central America each time a new order of rosewood is completed. They personally examine each piece of rosewood for sound quality and grain configuration before it comes back to the U.S. Ron and his team have hand-inspected each piece of rosewood ever purchased by marimba one™.

Rosewood grows in Central and South America, Africa, and Asia and is endangered on all of these continents. In order to combat this danger, products made with rosewood are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) appendix II, as of January 2017.

This means that it is necessary to have documentation that proves that the rosewood was 100% legally procured from forest to factory. All of marimba one™’s rosewood has been legally obtained and can be shipped worldwide. 

Sustainable practices also protect the environment. At one of the marimba one™’s  mills, trees are selectively cut on a 30-year rotation. Only the rosewood trees that are 10” and larger in diameter are allowed to be cut. This means that in 30 years’ time, marimba one™ will be able to use the trees that will have grown up. At another marimba one™ mill, each rosewood tree that is cut is replaced by fourteen young trees which will be re-planted in the jungle so that the rosewood population is able to regenerate.

“When you hold a piece of Honduras Rosewood in your hand, you can really feel its power,” Samuels said. “Working with such amazing wood is a big responsibility. You never want to rush the tuning of a piece of rosewood; it is the tuner’s responsibility to individually understand each piece of rosewood and unlock its most musical voice.”