Xylophone-like, but with a rounder, warmer tone, the marimba originated in Africa but has conquered the globe. The Marimba 2010 International Festival and Conference, one of the largest events of its kind, brings celebrated marimbists from as far away as Ghana and Japan to the Twin Cities for four days of concerts, roundtables and master classes. The festival begins with a free concert at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Ted Mann Concert Hall in Minneapolis.

Among the highlights:

• The premiere of Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic's Marimba Concerto No. 2 with the composer as soloist, joined by the Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä (11 a.m. Thu.; 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Orchestra Hall, 11th St. and Nicollet Mall. $22-$84. 612-371-5656 or www. minnesotaorchestra.org).

• Brooklyn-based So Percussion in the premiere of Mary Ellen Childs' "And So" and the regional premiere of Steve Reich's 2009 "Mallet Quartet," at the Southern Theater (7:30 p.m. Thu.; 8 p.m. Fri. 1420 Washington Av. S., Mpls. $10-$20. 612-340-1725 or www. southerntheater.org).

• An evening of chamber music with marimba on the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra's engine408 new-music series (8 p.m. Thu. and Sat. Music Room at SPCO Center, 408 St. Peter St., St. Paul. $10. 651-291-1144 or www.thespco.org).

• A VocalEssence program in the Cathedral of St. Paul, featuring Mexico's famed Marimba Nandayapa ensemble and an arrangement of Giovanni Gabrieli's Magnificat à 33 for 20 marimbas and voices (8 p.m. Fri. 239 Selby Av., St. Paul. $20-$40. 612-371-5656 or www.vocalessence.org).