Maria Minnaar-Bailey grew up in rural Zimbabwe (then known as Rhodesia) in the 1960’s. She lived with her parents on various Lutheran mission stations out in the “bush” until 1972, when the family moved to the city of Bulawayo.
Maria was exposed to African music from an early age through her parents' friends, most of whom were school teachers and musicians. Maria's Swedish father, Olof Axelsson, was a church musician and ethnomusicologist who later became Director of Kwanongoma College of African Music in Bulawayo. The name Kwanongoma means "the place where drums are played", and the classrooms and workshop of this little college on the outskirts of Bulawayo have produced some superb African music teachers, as well as marimba, hosho and mbira instruments for use in schools.
Northlea Marimba Band was one of the first high school bands in Bulawayo, and at age thirteen Maria joined the band. Student teachers from Kwanongoma came to teach the eager young players for the first few months. After that, Maria started arranging music for the marimbas, as well as teaching younger students.
Maria emigrated to the U.S. in 1984, settling in Texas at first. She purchased her own set of marimbas from her father’s workshop in Zimbabwe, and started teaching young Texans how to play African music (see About: The Marimba Kids). Her Chaia Marimba Music series of books and CD’s contain a variety of marimba and choral arrangements from Zimbabwe and elsewhere. She moved to Missouri in 2011, where she continues to play and teach marimbas, as well as working on her next music book.