Tuesday, 7 March 2017

All Systems Go

Had my first and last piano lesson on Sunday.

Almost wept to see Paco showing me how Lirika should be played. He's one of Rwanda's foremost pianists, but hadn't seen a fully opened piano before.

This is why we need pianos in Rwanda!

To hear her being played so well, and to know I tuned her and fixed those broken keys - it was quite an emotional moment.

But it's likely to be my last lesson as we've failed to find a broken piano in Kigali. 

My friend Desiré was over yesterday and we went through everything in detail. It seems it's going to be fairly straightforward apart from the piano action - the bit that makes the hammer hit the string and the damper lift. It's a complicated mechanism.

Like the string frame, we'd much rather tackle that challenge here than import. Some things, like strings and bridle straps, are going to need to come from outside, but as far as possible, we want this to be a Rwandan built piano. Firstly, to prove we can, and secondly, to keep the final instrument at an affordable cost. 

A friend told me One Love, a club in town, had a broken piano. I went to check it out. They have two pianos - unfortunately (for me) both are in perfect working order. So, I'm resigned to taking Lirika apart and - one day - putting her back together again.

I'm meeting later in the week with a couple of friends who specialise in promotional videos. I'm hoping they'll give me a hand getting a crowdfunding project off the ground. I think we're probably looking at around FRW 5,000,000 (£5,000) to build the prototype because we intend to make a few mistakes, and the time invested in working out the action will be longer the first time we do it. Once we know what we're doing, things should get easier. We also need the frame mould making. Once we have that, we should just be able to reuse it.

Something that has been a little surprising has been the level of negativity I've encountered from established piano makers and parts suppliers. I've contacted a few asking for advice. The worst response was from a British string manufacturer:

Sorry to dampen your enthusiasm but there are plenty of people like you who have the dream of building their own piano, but you are not likely to succeed.



I have to admit, that's one of the reasons I love living in Rwanda. Sure, we try things and they sometimes fail, but everyone is willing to get involved in new ideas - to explore the 'what if'. It's all about building something. 

Yes, on the one hand it's complicated, there's a lot going on inside a piano, but on the other hand it's quite simple - it's all just wood and metal.

 Now we need to get the cash together.

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