Dare to dream: the carpenter tried to build a piano in Rwanda.
Today is Monday afternoon, DesireMulumeoderwa is alone in his studio, a quiet, creative oasis of motorcycle demonstrations, and a permanent noise outside the streets of Kigali. The mud was strewn with planks of various shapes and sizes, and Mulumeoderwa used plastic fragments and other discarded materials used in his carpentry work.
In dimly lit shops, chairs, cabinets and bedstands are all in different stages of construction. A corner in the doorway is a different project than any other project.
Mulumeoderwa is building an upright piano.
This is a 20-year carpenter and a new career in Rwanda. The finished product will be the first to be made in Rwanda, a music milestone for the landlocked east African nation. It is the first such instrument to be produced in Africa since Dietmann, a German company in South Africa, closed production in 1989.
But the road to victory is hard. Like Rwanda, which is known as the “nation of thousand hills,” the mission of building a piano faces a range of challenges, from the availability of parts to the necessary skills for success.
“The first piano was hard to make, but the second one was difficult, and the second one was easy,” Mulumeoderwa said confidently, with a shy smile on his face.
This incredible confidence was the catalyst for his British business partner to be initially seen as a crazy crazy idea.
“It’s not that this is something we’re doing particularly innovative,” said Marion Grace Woolley, a piano partner at Mulumeoderwa. “This is the place where we do it, that’s very strange, when I walked into the studio, see the dirt, or workers with glass pieces make the wood smooth, will still impress me, I thought,” wow, you can really build this complex situation of the street after the Kigali. ‘”
Woolley has lived in Rwanda since 2007 and grew up around the piano. For her, the piano makes the house feel like home. She said she had been looking for her home in Rwanda, but found the word “piano” in Rwanda as a synonym for electronic keyboards. The type of electricity is easy to find. Tracking a string version is much more complicated.
Her search led to her 1968 Russian Lirika integrity, which was sold by Egyptian expatriates. The pianos were billed as one million rwandan francs – about $1,160 – which went beyond woolley’s budget. Some keys are broken and the instruments are out of tune. But woolley, a nonprofit consultant, says she knows “no one in Rwanda sells pianos.” So she seized the opportunity.
“It could fall apart in all sorts of ways,” Woolley explains. “But it’s a piano. It’s playing. It’s the only piano I’ve seen in about three years.”
She purchased Lirika in December 2016 and maintained it as a passion project. She watched YouTube video, publishing problems at the piano BBS and email manufacturers.
Soon after woolley brought lilica’s home, Mulmenoderwa came to his desk and bed. She said that when he saw the piano, his eyes lit up. She wondered: could he have done that?
Mulumeoderwa examined Lirika, though he already knew the answer. He has been using wood – piano material for the last twenty years.
“When I see something made of wood, I know I can make what I see,” he said. “I told Marion, ‘I’m sure I can make the piano. ‘”
It resonates on Indiegogo.
As a result, Kigali case was born and named after the rwandan capital.
The duo held a crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo in March 2017, aiming to raise about $8,000. By June, they had reached their goal, and Mulumeoderwa began. He set aside his normal carpentry work and devoted himself to the piano every week.
“It’s a big challenge because I can’t make it for someone,” Mulumeoderwa said. “I can only do it by myself.”
Although wood products are easy to reach Mulumeoderwa, he needs to help find other materials for nearly 12,000 parts inside the piano.
For Kigali to succeed, woolley had to deconstruct the lilica she had long sought, so Mulumeoderwa could study the skeleton and copy the parts.
“The biggest risk is that I can’t put my own piano together,” woolley said. “I have this nightmare that, after all, I will eventually have no piano, but I believe we can do it and put them back together.”
Other steps also ensure that the two men reach their goals. They used expert knowledge at the Howard piano industry company in Wisconsin, USA, and used the father and son technician team at the Key-Sure piano company in durban, South Africa. Woolley has been in contact with Howard’s people to get material and understand more technical aspects of the piano.
“I think [the project] sounds very exciting, and it sounds like she has a lot to learn but is looking for ways to get it done,” Howard said. This includes buying the necessary parts from the manufacturer, communicating with the designer and builder, making the Mario Igrec manual piano, and using Lirika as the template.
Woolley piano shops are scattered throughout the Mulumeoderwa: bare bones hugged a small office, Lirika old keyboard inside, put on the table, just like a big grin.
On a recent Monday afternoon, as the sky began to close, Mulumeoderwa placed the European pine planks on the workbench and inserted a jigsaw cutter. While holding the wood in the left hand, holding the tool with the right hand, Mulumeoderwa cuts into a focused slide, and the machine’s angry cry breaks through the quiet room.
“I chose a special place to cut wood,” he explained. “There can’t be cracks on the board. Maybe we can make five or more keys with a meter of wood, but if we want quality, we can’t have more than five.”
He estimated it would take three weeks to produce all 88 keys. Then he would turn to the piano.
However, some obstacles have slowed the overall progress of the piano. Strings, piano strings and movements – the three basic elements of any piano, especially the movement of the keys and strings to produce the sound of the piano – all require parts made in Africa and Africa. To avoid import costs, Mulumeoderwa and Woolley had to think outside the box.
Woolley and Mulumeoderwa, for example, use recovery triggers from Kenyan social enterprises, rather than the hammer that USES the unwieldy African felt to make the piano.
“We’ll give them a chance to see how it works,” woolley said, acknowledging that they may have to reassess. “We don’t know if it works until we have a stringed instrument.”
According to woolley, the string frame that forged their own usually cast iron was by far the biggest achievement. Their first attempt, working with the rwandan metalworkers who owned a small foundry in Kigali, failed. Mulumeoderwa suggested that they try Chillington, which is a metal factory specializing in wheelbarrow production. As a result, Kigali Keys has two notes on both sides of the logo – and beats everyone’s expectations.
“I posted a picture of the final gold-plated frame on a BBS on the piano,” Woolley said. “They don’t believe it was made in Rwanda.”
However, it is hard to find strings in Africa. The team spent several months – and the help of many experts from around the world – to track the fine steel strings needed for the middle and high notes. Woolley turned to South Africa’s key-sure piano to determine the exact size of their prototypes and determine whether they could be obtained in Africa. Unfortunately, woolley says the team must eventually buy the strings from the Early Keyboard Agency in Oxford, England.
Part of their creativity is driven by the rwandan manufacturing movement, a government initiative launched in 2016 to encourage local production and consumption. Woolley and Mulumeoderwa hope “made in Rwanda expo” in 2018 presented their final prototype, usually at the end of each year, the goal is to build the piano one day and sold to Rwanda’s emerging middle class and foreigners.
The main builder’s suspicions.
Some are sceptical about their plans, such as Lothar Schell, a piano maker and former plant manager at Dietmann, the continent’s last known manufacturer. When the company was still operating, they exported the piano to more than 33 countries. In the African continent, especially South Africa, Egypt, namibia and Rhodesia, only a small number of today’s zimbabweans are sold.
The 80-year-old piano consultant is still active in the industry and believes Mulumeoderwa’s task is too difficult. He worries about Africa’s lack of existing materials and the accuracy of its architecture, especially the piano’s sound board and cast iron frame. Building a framework is one thing, he says, but the other thing is to make it strong enough to withstand 27,000 pounds of tension on a piano string without bending or breaking.
“A piano was built for the climate,” sher said. “It takes about 60 percent of the air and 22 to 23 degrees Celsius (about 73 degrees Fahrenheit).”
Although it is possible, Kigali case’s goal is to end high.
Although the prototype is still in production – they hope to finish in six months – the first piano player in Kigali case has lined up. In the case of Eizinanan Pascal, the rwandan musician and piano teacher, Paco, will be the first to itch.
“I can’t stop smiling,” said the 26-year-old. “I am very glad to hear that it is very nice to see a rwandese playing the piano in Rwanda.”