The marimba is a percussion instrument of wooden slabs which are struck with sticks. It originates from Africa and is still used in Zaire and Angola. In those countries, gourds were placed under each slab to resonate the sound.
Slaves brought it with them to Central America, and it has become the national instrument of Guatemala. In modern versions, hollow wooden tubes are hung beneath the slabs, instead of gourds, the instrument is mounted on legs, and so it tends to resemble the xylophone in appearance.
Its range is 4 octaves, 2 on each side of middle C. A skilled player can make a modern marimba sound very soft, mellow, and expressive, by use of gentle repetitive tapping with two sticks, or else quite sharp and percussive, by single hard taps on the keys.