The Toha or Totem Harp, was inspired by the sociable weaver birds of Southern Africa that build their nests in big bundles of closely knit communities. As an instrument that can be played by two musicians each has a set of strings with the same tuning on each side of the instrument.
How do birds build their nests?
with only beaks as tools, they turn basic components into nests secure enough to take a growing family of nestlings, vying for their parents’ attentions and stretching their wings. When playing the toha people can find a nest, beaks, the pole around which the nest is supported and even the overhead telephone lines the pole supports.
TOHA IN SPACE
The toha is one of the favorite instruments with visitors in our touring INSTRMNTS exhibition. Here at The Royal Opera House in London during the DELOITTE IGNITE Festival where we also performed with the toha and several other instruments. Usually this instrument has a central role in our performances.
mother and child creating music for nests
The toha has 44 strings divided into two sections of a diatonic scale with three octaves each. The two musicians facing each other can play it using the tip of their fingers or their nails while weaving together a piece of music they themselves create. Picture by Joost.
The INSTRMNTS exhibition has an intense program of workshops where the toha is one of the instruments that gets kids excited and inspired. At Teatro Colsubsidio in Bogota we adapted the workshops to the busy educational program of the organization that brings in big groups of school children from across the city and surroundings as far a Cachipay. They all get their chance to play.
TOHA IN CONCERT
The toha has been featured in many concerts from the Concertgebow in Amsterdam to the Carnegie Hall in New York and been played by musicians such as the Kronos Quartet. In this concert Salomé Pais Matos, a professional harpist, uses the tip of her fingers while Victor Gama uses his nails, two very different technics.
HOW DO WE BUILD IT?
for us there isn’t a broken path between traditional acoustic instruments and instruments that are created in our time. Our instruments are ”born digital” as we are using 21st century digital technologies. As a result the final object still follows the lineage of ”traditional acoustic” musical instruments but carries a digital self, a virtual instrument and its own sound library.
VELA 6911 – An Antarctica Diary
Our contemporary instruments could not be viable if we hadn’t put them in direct dialogue with orchestral musical instruments such as violins, cellos, bassoons and more. They can stand the rigors of the stage, staying tuned throughout long performances.
GET IN TOUCH
If you’re interested in the toha talk to us!
or book an INSTRMNTS exhibition and engage your audience.
Send us an email