Wild Blue Pixel
LEARN ABOUT THE KALIMBA
In the early 1960's, the world experienced a veritable explosion of kalimbas, all coming from AMI. I do know for a fact that some mbiras had come out of Africa before AMI began making kalimbas. I met a man here in Tucson who in 1953 had traded his leather jacket to a medicine man in West Africa for a little mbira. This little thumb piano was made from a solid piece of wood which had been hollowed out into a resonant chamber. He brought this mbira to me at one of my performances in 2005, and I got to play it. Though not as sophisticated as the Hugh Tracey kalimba, this instrument has a remarkably clear and beautiful tone, not unlike the Hugh Tracey kalimba.
Soon, a larger deeper kalimba model, the ALTO Kalimba, was designed, as well as a board-mounted treble called the Treble Celeste. This trio of kalimbas hit the world running. In my youth, I remember seeing a Hugh Tracey kalimba around 1965. It had become a trendy and worldly item to have on your coffee table.
In the mid 1960's, Hugh Tracey's sons Andrew and Paul, with the help of a few others, wrote a musical revue which mixed cultural and political commentary with traditional folk music from all over the world. In 1963 they created another revue. The best material from the two revues was merged into a single show called Wait a Minim, a pun as the Brits call a quarter note a minim. This show left Johannesburg and made its way to London, Paris, and then to Broadway in New York City. And with this show came the kalimba.
A kalimba showed up in a 7-Up commercial on TV. The hippie underground was introduced to the instrument, and it spread further. Then mainstream music artists such as Taj Mahal and Earth, Wind and Fire started featuring the kalimba, and the kalimba's popularity soared.