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The Sansula is a wonderful new kalimba invented by Peter Hokema. Here you will find a list of resources for learning about the Sansula.

The Sansula

Check out the video below, which shows me demonstrating the Sansula.

One of the video tips for playing the Sansula

Guides to Playing the Sansula

Playing the Sansula Playing the Sansula is a multifaceted introduction to the Sansula. Great for beginners or experienced musicians and anyone in between, 96 pages, with CD. At this moment, this is the only book on learning to play the Sansula.
Playing the Sansula The German-made Sansula now comes with an English translation of the guide - here is a translation done by a client - but I inserted my own favorite tunings!
Playing the Sansula Here is the old Kalimba Magic Sansula insert, which provides advice on learning the Sansula, including a nice way of conceptualizing the standard Sansula tuning, as well as several alternate tunings.



Sansula Models Available from Kalimba Magic

  • Pocket Sansula: The 9-note kalimba all by itself. Still beautiful, but without the wah-wah.
  • Regular Sansula: the 9-note kalimba mounted on a thin drum head is no longer carried at the Kalimba Magic Shop, sorry!.
  • Renaissance Sansula: Slightly quieter than the regular Sansula, but the drum head is made from a synthetic drum head material made by the Remo drum company, which is also more robust and more resistent to abuse.
  • Deluxe Sansula: Sounds essentially the same as the regular Sansula, but the drum head is made from goat skin, which is more robust and more resistent to abuse. I find the lower notes to be of darker tone, and the higher notes to be a lighter tone.

Listen and compare the four Sansula types.

Four Sansulas
Four Sansulas
Upper: Pocket Sansula, Standard Sansula,
Lower: Renaissance Sansula, Deluxe Sansula

The Sansula Tuning

All Sansulas come in the standard tuning or, for an additional $8, can be retuned to the Beautiful E tuning or Tark's Heavnely A tuning. The standard Sansula tuning is in A minor, which sounds moody and mystical and brooding. The Beautiful E Tuning on the other hand is in E major, full of light and positivity and openness. The standard tuning has one pair of tines tuned to the same note, and the E tuning removes that redundancy, giving 9 different notes, expanding the potential for harmonic complexity. We can also recommend the Heavenly A tuning (thanks to Tark) and the Morocco Tuning for Middle-Eastern playing.

The Standard Tuning

Standard Sansula Tuning

The standard tuning is an Ake Bono Japanese pentatonic scale in A minor, so the Sansula can play with any C major or A minor kalimba. The wonderful thing about the Sansula is that it sort of comes with its own song pre-loaded. This is the magic of the tuning and note layout - wonderfully mystical and beautiful music just falls out of it.

We have done three series of tips for the Sansula in standard tuning:
The Beautiful E Tuning for Sansula

Beautiful E Sansula Tuning

While the standard Sansula tuning is really wonderful, it is difficult to drive the Sansula elsewhere if you know very much about music -- unless you retune the Sansula. Retuning is difficult, and you need to be careful so you don't rip the drum skin or hurt yourself on the metal tines. Peter Hokema recommends retuning with a small hammer, but I use pliers. Retuning can be very fruitful in expanding the scope of what the Sansula can do. The best tuning I have invented is the Beautiful E Tuning.

Retuning to the Beautiful E Tuning

Two resources for the Sansula in Beautiful E Tuning:
A series of tips for the Sansula in Beautiful E
• There is a free E Sansula Hymnal with 35 hymns in KTabS format -- the KTabS reader is now FREE, or you can purchase the full KTabS program for $30.

Sansula in Beautiful E Tuning, with bass and mandola accompaniment.

The Heavenly A Tuning for Sansula

Rick Tarquinio invented the Heavenly A Tuning for Sansula shortly after Mark Holdaway invented the Beautiful E Tuning. Here is our own Heavenly A Sansula video:

Sansula in Heavenly A Tuning, with bass accompaniment.

The Morocco E Tuning for Sansula

Sansula in Morocco E Tuning, with guitar accompaniment.

I am gussing there are on the order of a hundred great tunings available to the Sansula, and I have only heard about ten of them - will you be the next to find one of these great tunings?

Sansula Retuning Service

By the way, if you are afraid to retune your Sansula, we can retune it for you for $20, domestic return shipping included. Retuning a Sansula is more difficult that retuning a Hugh Tracey. The flip side is that these kalimbas stay in tune better and longer than the Hugh Tracey kalimbas. It takes me about 10 minutes to go from standard Sansula tuning to E tuning, but it took one of my clients two hours to do the same job. We can also invent new tunings for you if you have particular requirements for a special song.

Other instruments that go great with the Sansula:

  • We carry another lovely Hokema kalimba, a straight A minor pentatonic kalimba. While it is not the Ake Bono scale, it works very well with the Sansulas in standard Ake Bono tuning, or can be retuned to the Ake Bono scale.
  • The five note Hokema kalimbas can be tuned to any chord, and are played sequentially - i.e., one after the other rather than at the same time to produce a chord progression. If tuned to chords such as Am, F, C, G, Dm, E, and Em, they go great with the Sansula in standard tuning, and this is a fantastic way to involve young children or casual observers with your Sansula fun!
  • Any Catania Kalimba in standard C tuning will go great with the Sansula in standard tuning.
  • The Hugh Tracey African Karimba can be purchased tuned to the key of A minor and it is a fantastic companion for the Sansula in standard tuning.
  • The Hugh Tracey Bb Treble Kalimba can be purchased tuned to the key of C major, which has the same notes as the Sansula in standard tuning.

Repairing a Sansula

Kalimba Magic no longer sells the Standard Sansula - i.e., the one with the rice paper-thin drum head - because they break too easily. We still sell the Deluxe Sansula with goat skin head, and the Sansula Renaissance with a synthetic Remo head. We have not heard of any instances of these models breaking like the Standard Sansula was prone to doing.

I do not recommend that people drum on the Sansula drum head. The heads are fairly fragile and the the Standard Sansula heads do break. If you have a small hole, rip, or tear, immediately go after it with super glue - that should work for a long time. Sansulas dropped on the ground from just a few feet can have their drum heads shattered. If the drum head shatters or rips in a way that cannot be glued, you are out of luck - or rather, your regular Sansula just turned itself into a pocket Sansula.

If you are concerned about the possibility of the drum head ripping or shattering (i.e., if you want to work with children playing the Sansula, or if you tend to drop things), there are three options for you: you can purchase the pocket Sansula (i.e., the kalimba without the drum head), you can purchase the deluxe Sansula, with a goat skin drum head which is more robust, or you could go for the Remo-headed Sansula Renaissance.

Still Have Sansula Questions?

If the tips and links offered here don't address your questions about the Sansula, feel free to contact me!


Last updated Nov 2011