Narrated by Sir David Attenborough. At a musical instrument factory in France, skilled craftsmen work fragments of African blackwood into clarinets and flutes for the international market. But in the early 1980s, with more and more wood cracking under pressure on the lathes, investigations turn to the plains of Tanzania, and to the Mpingo tree – the source of the remarkable black heartwood.
The Mpingo takes over 70 years to reach commercial maturity. Prized by musicians around the world, it is also much sought after by Tanzania’s Makonde woodcarvers whose sculptures play an important role in cultural life. Michael Gunton’s exquisite film links the instruments of today with the forests where people first made music, and shows how sustainable management of Mpingo plantations benefits local communities and international markets alike.