Ka’i orgel

This wooden object with nails in it is the ‘music roll’ of a “ka’i òrgel”, a typical Curaçaoan musical instrument that looks like a combination between a cilinder piano and an organ. A wooden chamber amplifies the sound produced by a cilinder with thousands of nails. Every nail is placed with the utmost precision. Building a “ka’i orgel” requires a skill that only some instrument builders master. The nailed compositions are unique. The mix of European melodies (often walzes and mazurka’s composed by Chopin, Jewish harmonies, and African rhythms) has developed into a unique musical genre. It is dance music because music cannot exist in Curaçao without dance. The “kai orgel” is the center of many parties. Migali is the daughter of the best known “kai orgel” maker on the island and she tells us what the instrument means to her.

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2:27 min

"My father used to tell me that back in the days the kai orgel parties would last 2 days, these were some parties!"

- Migali Pinedo

I am Migali Pinedo, I am the youngest child of mr Serapio Pinedo. Next to me you can see a cylinder. A cylinder takes more or less 8000 nails. You have to remove the head of each one of them. With a nailer you stick a nail into one of the holes in the cylinder. In the end the cylinder will be full of nails and the nails together define the melody. So the cylinder is the main element of the kai orgel that carries the song of the kai orgel. My father used to tell me that back in the days the kai orgel parties would last 2 days, these were some parties! The kai orgel was especially popular among wealthy people. In time it spread across the island and came to areas like Bandabou where my father actually saw one when he was a little boy and said this is for me! He learned to make kai orgel all by himself. And it has been popular ever since.