Seed to Song


    Olam’s Concessions provide wood for making guitars to brands like Bedell Guitars and C. F. Martin & Co.. Their musical instruments have been used by stars from Elvis Presley to more recently, Ed Sheeran, hence command a cult status globally. 

    It is wood procurers like Nicholas, who are the first link in the chain between the forests and the raw material buyers, who eventually craft the guitars for brands like Bedell Guitars and C.F. Martin & Co.

    "I started buying wood from CIB-Olam 20 years ago and I continued being a customer after I began my own company. It is definitely about the quality of the wood, but it is also about the relationship with the people, the corporate culture and the approach to responsible forestry", says Nicholas Weber, Owner of Tonewoods SL

    Why Ebony And CIB-Olam?

    For Nicholas, the hardwood is special, as it is consistent and lasts forever. Sapele, African Mahogany, Padouk, Wenge, Brazilian and Indian Rosewood are some varieties that go into making a whole guitar. There are many kinds of wood that go into the making of a guitar fingerboard, however, what makes Ebony special is its natural characteristics of being, durable and offering smooth acoustics. What makes this journey stand apart, is that CIB-Olam (FSC-C006439) is the only company in the world that sells FSC™ certified Ebony which is used for making guitar parts.

    The majority of wood that Nicholas procures travels to China, the USA, and Europe. Other countries include Canada, Mexico, Indonesia, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, and South America. These would then get crafted into acoustic, electric, classical guitars and other instruments like ukuleles.  These instruments range from US $50 guitars made for tourists to US $150,000 guitars made for celebrities, fans and collectors.

    Robert Garner, Director of ForestBased Solutions LLC, provides forest product due diligence services globally. He has been associated with CIB-Olam since 2013. Coming with an enriched global perspective on responsible forest management for over 25 years, he comments, "The combination of reputation, certification, the kind of dedication that CIB-Olam maintains in helping preserve the value chain makes it stand out unlike any other company in Africa." He adds, "The scale, the vision, its commitments to social, environmental and economic integration is a model for conducting business with a conscience."

    C.F. Martin & Co

    The legendary CF Martin and Company is into its sixth generation of making musical instruments. The second oldest family-owned musical instruments business has become a global leader and it cherishes its relationship with CIB Olam. In the words of Albert Germick, the Sourcing Specialist for C. F. Martin & Co., " FSC Certified wood plays a big part in our decision to procure wood sourced from CIB-Olam, but it goes beyond the certification. We are proud to partner with CIB Olam because it is managing forests responsibly and supporting social initiatives in its communities." This February's visit to Pokola led to gifting a guitar that was made of materials coming from its concessions.

    Bedell Guitars

    Tom Bedell relaunched Bedell Guitars in 2009 after four decades of hiatus. He acquired another company, which is when he decided to visit every place on earth from where the wood for handcrafting his guitars comes from. He wanted to document the story behind each of them and be sure that it is being harvested responsibly. "It was singularly, the most joyous experience to visit CIB-Olam. The way in which CIB-Olam has decided to honour the largest contiguous forest concession of tropical hardwood in Africa, become a part of the culture of Congo Basin, provide for jobs, build a community, with a spirit to last forever, taking only 2% of Ebony and never harvesting in the same hectare for the next 30 years. The footprint is impossible to see after 10 years. ", he says.

    "The soul of the company moved me so much that I have now handcrafted 10 guitars, all made from CIB wood and would like to donate them for a music school in Pokola.", he adds with a sense of satisfaction. "Our team of 30 craftsmen put together what mother earth has to give in the form of African Khaya Mahogany and African Ebony from CIB-Olam. The musician puts their soul in the instrument. The intention behind donating the guitars is to give back something to the place, where they came from, and eventually create a whole community of musicians in Pokola", he hopes. 

    My hunt to know the music scene in Pokola leads me to Studio Mec, a 14-month old recording studio, that is trying to get vocal and instrumental artists together to sing songs, record them and follow the calling of music. This is a hair salon on the outside, but a music recording studio on the inside. 

    The group that is recording is eager to tell their favourite songs, styles and their association with music. Their favourite form of singing is the Nomboloa, which actually stems from an indigenous dance form. They think that despite them singing in Linghala, the official language of The Republic of the Congo, their music has the power to bring people together, make this isolated region in Sangha Department more lively and bring the much needed joy and happiness to people.

    These self-taught musicians sing about love and land, but also about malaria, AIDS and boiling water before drinking. They like singing in the church choir, and they believe that with a little bit of support, their music and the village of Pokola can be on the world map.


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