Sunday, 18 November 2018

The Old Lady of Gikondo

We had a really interesting call-out last week. An Italian family who have lived in Rwanda for three generations are moving from Kigali to the Eastern Province. They have a piano and wanted us to take a look at it and let them know if anything needs fixing before they go.

It was a really interesting case. The lady's grandfather owned it, but she wasn't sure where it originally came from.

Inside, there's a serial number, but there's no maker's mark anywhere on the piano or the frame. Unless you know who made the piano, the number doesn't mean much.


It could be that this is a compilation of more than one piano. Sometimes parts of reclaimed pianos were mix-and-matched, and sometimes marked pianos were refurbished and resold by third parties, such as we saw with Merrick's brandless piano. The outer casing looks typically 1930s/40s, but the keys are plastic rather than ivory, which suggests post-1939 when the cost of plastic and the scarcity of ivory due to the war saw a shift in key tops. Most likely late 1940s, but we may never know for sure.

It's very dusty inside and the hammers need sprucing, but generally it plays okay. Couple of slow hammer returns and two keys half eaten my mice, but - other than the tuning - not bad condition for an old lady.


There's also a large chunk missing from the top left of the soundboard, the bass section. You could see right through it, but weirdly it didn't seem to affect the sound much.

We provided a quote to restore the soundboard and a couple of other minor issues, and to give the hammers a file and iron. And for a tune. They've decided to complete the move and get back to us. The instrument can be transported back to Kigali if they decide to go ahead with it. We hope to see her again one day in the future. 

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