Online Kalimba Lessons
Kalimba Tour 2008
Interview with Patti Broussard
Paul Tracey on the Ed Sullivan Show
Kalimba Workshops Available
What Can You Do to Stop the War?
At Kalimba Magic, we are not just supplying the U.S. and the World with high quality kalimbas and kalimba instructional materials, but we are also helping people learn to play the kalimba music they want to learn.
Nothing beats sitting down next to a great kalimba player and watching them do their thing, or asking them to slow down and repeat the riff you want to learn. But what if there isn't a kalimba expert in your neck of the woods? Kalimba Magic can help you.
The KTabS software for Windows is a great tool for learning how to play the kalimba. It is easy to use, yet is reconfigurable for virtually any sort of kalimba. At this time, I am working on kalimba lessons with several people around the country, and most of them are pursuing their lessons with KTabS. I am providing KTabS-based instruction on the Hugh Tracey Alto and Treble kalimbas, the Sansula, the 8-Note, and the Catania 12-Note kalimba. KTabS costs about as much as a single lesson. Students can request specific songs, which I can arrange for them in KTabS. Once the song is in KTabS format, the student can print out the tablature, have the computer "play" the song so they can not only hear what the song sounds like, but also see which tines to play and when. They can even modify the song, simplifying bits that are too complicated, adding new sections, and adding harmony and accompaniment notes.
The most exciting remote work I am doing with students is to help them write their own pieces. KTabS is a great tool for writing down a song, and even beginners can drive this program effectively. The song can go back and forth between student and teacher, iteratively improving, or fixing little timing glitches and so on.
Of course, the proof is in the playing, so you will need to be able to record your kalimba songs and send them to me. The Wednesday Tip of the Day is featuring tips on how to make quality recordings of your own kalimba playing. Essentially anyone who owns a computer can make a high quality recording and email it to their friends, or to Kalimba Magic.
If you are interested in KTabS or Kalimba Lessons, please contact me and we can review your vision and your goals for the kalimba lessons.
Kevin Spears with kalimba on a big stage.
You know the magic of kalimba music - that's why you are on this mailing list and that's why you are reading these words right now. But most people in the world haven't ever been touched by the magic of kalimba music. Maybe it's time that we reach out and touch the world?
Stephen Swartz has struck upon a great idea: a kalimba show building upon the growing kalimba talent in the U.S. The vision is to enlist great kalimba players and to pitch that collection of players to summer music festivals to get a "kalimba stage" or a "kalimba tent." Optimally, we would get a foot in the door at several different festivals. So far, Stephen Swartz, Roland P. Young, Kevin Spears, and Mark Holdaway are interested in such an enterprise. At this time, we are assembling a promotional packet. One component of the promotional packet will be web-based, so we need to spiff up the kalimba community pages, offering sound clips and good descriptions of each players' kalimba playing. We'll put together a sampler CD as well.
If you would like to be considered for Kalimba Tour 2008, please contact me. I will need a song or a soundclip for the web and CD, a short bio paragraph, a photo, and permission to post and duplicate. Think about which regions of the country you would be available for - east coast, west coast, midwest, inter-mountain region, the south, etc. Also, if you have ideas for festivals to approach with this idea, that would be greatly appreciated!
With a little luck, this time next year you'll be reading this newsletter learning about where to hear us all play! And with a little luck, maybe you'll even be one of us.
Patti Broussard is a free-spirited creative artist and musician who lives outside of Austin, Texas. Her motto is: "Wherever you are planted, just BLOOM."
I've been intending to interview her for her work in teaching kids how to play kalimba, but when I saw her performances on the Array Mbira I realized I had to do this interview now.
KM: Your Array Mbira music is quite amazing. How long have you been playing this instrument?
PB: Thank you! I purchased my Array Mbira at the end of November 2006. I've had it here 6 good months....And I was and am overly obsessed! I play every single chance I get! I've probably even gone a bit overboard. I want to really master this thing. Some practice sessions will go on for 4 or 5 hours, before I realize, I should really be doing something else, like working on an order or something! But I'm loving it. I'm feeling like it's definitely something that is becoming part of me! It feels to me, like they say, "as a duck is to water...??"
KM: That reminds me of the pull the Hammered Dulcimer had on me in the first few years after I bought it.
I can see the layout of the instrument when you play "Carol of the Bells." Tell us about that.
PB: The Array Mbira is layed out in what is called "the circle of 5ths." It really is amazing, the way even someone without any musical knowledge could strum the tines and just by moving one space up or one space down, create the 3 basic chords in most music. I have been playing piano since I was 2 or 3 and so my thinking has to be totally UNDONE you might say, when I start to arrange a familiar piece on this mbira. I really, REALLY feel that my dance background has helped tremendously with it. Here is why. I am a tapper, or rather a "hoofer." I love intricate rhythms and toe/heel work. So when I started playing the Array, I noticed, hey, if I think of these tines as dance combinations instead of really trying to remember where the c, d, e, or f is, that might help me "see" the music piece I'm trying to create. And it did. So when I play an arrangement, I'm dancing the combinations on the mbira, with my fingers, creating the steps as I would a really intricate tap combination.... I DO NOT recommend dancing on the Mbira! (haha, you can take that out!)
How wonderful it is to be able to play up to 5 octaves with the stroke of one finger! My mbira is a 4 octave. I love having so much to work with in just one area of this instrument. The array comes in 3, 4 or 5 octaves.
KM: It is amazing that they get 5 octaves out of a kalimba!
I see music in a similar way to your "dancing on the tines." I never think of C, D, E, unless I NEED to go there in order to communicate with other musicians - rather, I see the instrument's layout as defining a crystaline pattern, and we as humans have our own ever-changing patterns. The music that comes out is like a cross product of the instrument's pattern and those patterns of ours which come through.
PB: Yes! That's a wonderful way to put it.
KM: Is there any formal music written for the Array Mbira, or are these all your own arrangements?
PB: These are my own arrangements. I LOVE the "figuring out." The hand choreography I guess you could say, that goes along with the "figuring it out" on this mbira. Make sense. As of now, there aren't any books with music for this instrument. I've gotten a few emails from Bill Wesley, the inventor of the Array Mbira, and he is working on some. He must be a genious to figure out how to write the music visually for this! I can't even imagine how it's going to be done.
KM: You work with teaching music to children. How do you use the kalimba in that work?
PB: Yes, I teach for the afterschool enrichment programs. Various classes of the things I love. Puppetry, Black light Theatre, Tap Dance, Kalimba.... I use the Catania 8-Note Kalimbas with the kiddos. They have LOVED it too. This is the first time this instrument has been used in these schools. It's probably something many schools, in my opinion would enjoy and should investigate using with their actual music departments. I have the students for only 45 minute sessions, so I had to create something easy for them to understand when playing the catania. Especially to help them learn fast. I wanted them to have an accomplished piece of music at the end of each session. I created my own tiny colored circle stickers and applied them to the 8 tines on the Catania. All different colors, one on each tine. This way, even though I did teach them which tine was c,d,e,f,g, a,b,c....they could still play along with the group if they couldn't remember the actual layout of notes. We just sang the colored dots and it was like magic. We had a choir of catanias, all on the same notes! Maybe not all at the same time, but that's ok. I am blessed with patience!
KM: How do you use the Array Mbira in your teaching?
PB: I have taken my Array Mbira up to the schools on a few occassions. As a treat or reward for the students at the end of a 6 weeks session. After laying down the ground rules, and there were many, each student had an opportunity to come up to the mbira, one at a time and strum the beautiful tines and just tinker on it... I played a few things for them. They were mesmerized at the sound and just the uniqueness of this instrument. I am saving for a recording station, to be able to record some of my original arrangement. I especially want to create some music for a special friend in AZ. She is an amazing choreographer and I know she could do some beautiful choreography to some beatiful mbira music. With a looping station, man, I'd be on this mbira 10 hours a day! Oh and a looping station would make Malaguena much easier to accomplish. Malaguena is definitely a work in progress for me! I'm still working the middle sections of that piece. Getting the bottom melody and the top melody, the part with all the eighth notes, in synch with my hands. Like scratching your belly and patting your head.... For now, I do love the intricacy and time it is taking, to figure out if I can actually do both parts with just two hands. I love a good challenge.
KM: Do you have any other kalimbas besides the 8-Note Catanias and the Array Mbira?
PB: Yes, I have a Hugh Tracey and a Catania. I love to sit out on the back patio with those.
KM: What new goals have you set for yourself as a kalimba and array mbira player?
PB: I would love to put together a few CDs eventually. One with lullabyes, another with familiar music pieces, a Christmas one, and another with original compositions. And I can't wait until I am accomplished enough on the Array to actually set up in public, at a festival maybe, and share it's beautiful sound. So far I've just played in church, the schools and on YouTube. I'm still learning how to edit those YouTube videos and such. All that is totally foreign to me, so please forgive the beginner-like quality in my videos. I'll improve!
KM: Well, I am impressed with your arrangements and your playing. The world is in for a treat! By the way, congratulations, Patti, on becoming a grandmother!
PB: Thanks! Tessa Leigh was born on April 28, 2007 I get to see her again on June 27th! Yeah!
You can find out more about Patti:
In the late 1950's, Hugh Tracey started sending the kalimba around the world. Then in the early 1960's, one of the ways that knowledge of the kalimba was spread around the world was through the musical review Wait a Minim! Largely written by Andrew and Paul Tracey, Hugh Tracey's sons, this musical made the rounds from Johanesburg to London, Paris, and New York, and took the troupe around the world for many years.
Here is the Gumboot Dance from Wait a Minim as performed on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1966. Paul Tracey is the tall fellow with the whistle, and Andrew is the fellow on the far right in the dance.
My take on this dance (which does not have a kalimba in it): it really is African, and it really isn't African. It is a blend of stuff, with genuine elements of African dance, rhythm, and song, but performed by non-Africans or caucasian South Africans.
I don't get out to see movies very often, so when I saw Broken Flowers with Bill Murry as he tried to reconnect with all his old girlfriends to figure out which one is the mother of his son, I have to admit I was pretty disappointed. There was one bright spot in this film, though: it exposed me to the great music of The Ethiopiques.
For Christmas, my friend and fellow kalimba player Glen Davis gave me and Deb a copy of one of the Ethiopiques CDs, and in front of this jazz/rock orchestra, one of the players held an African Lyre called a Bagana, also known as the harp of David. A few months later, when I hooked up with Martin Klabunde of the Tucson-based Dambe Project, Martin showed me a very similar instrument from Uganda called the Ndongo. Martin and I hatched an idea: to turn a Hugh Tracey kalimba into an Ndongo.
The Ndongo is usually tuned to a pentatonic scale, with the left thumb and forefinger playing on three upper octave strings, and the right thumb playing on five lower octave strings. So, we reorganized Martin's pentatonic kalimba in an Ndongo style. Martin has been busy translating traditional Ndongo music onto the Ndongo-style kalimba, and I've been busy exploring new possibilities of this new-traditional instrument.
N.Scott Robinson (check out the February interview of N.Scott Robinson) informed us of Collin Walcott's Ndongo-tuned kalimba in his Kalimba Magic interview. At that time, I didn't understand at all for three reasons: the rightmost tines are an octave higher than I realized; Collin played this kalimba upside down, so the three rightmost tines when I look at it are actually the three upper octave notes of the left side; and the tines are not separated, but more blended. I'm seeing the connections now.
If you are interested in getting an Ndongo-tuned kalimba or an Ndongo-tuned kalimba with pickup, contact me. This kalimba is not available at the Kalimba Shop, but it is a cool enough idea that I suspect someone is interested in it.
I'm getting my feet wet as a kalimba workshop facilitator. To date, I've done:
I have also experienced the possibilities of building intimacy through playing kalimba with my partner, and I am planning a Couples Kalimba Workshop for the future.
Some workshops will be private by nature, but public workshops will be advertised in this newsletter. If you are interested in bringing a kalimba workshop to your community, contact Mark Holdaway.
It is bad business sense to take on a partisan issue such as the war. However, I feel that I can no longer do "business as usual." The time has come when we all need to do something, every day, to remind the world that this insanity has gone on too long. It started as a huge mistake, falsely linking a brutal Iraqi dictator to the brutal September 11 tragedy. It continued as a poorly planned adventure of revenge led by men who had no first hand experience of war. Now, we are pouring lives, money, resources, and good will down a hole in the ground. The aftermath of this war will be with us all for decades. Forty years from now, Americans will still see disabled Iraq War vets begging on the street corners. Many veterans will still live with the psychological scars of this war. Family members will still feel the pain of their lost mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters. Iraqis will still know the pain of their ruined country and the loss of their loved ones. The resentment in the common folk of the Middle East will boil up in acts of terrorism against the people of the United States. Citizens of the U.S. will feel the embarrasment and shame of what their country did when they travel abroad to other countries. And on, and on, and on.
To counteract the negative impacts of the war, we need love, creativity, all the good things we can muster. I can't tell anyone what to do or what to believe, but I believe that we all must act to turn around this nightmare which has gone on far too long. What is your path? I would ask that you pray and ask what you can do. I trust that you will find your own peaceful ways to act and find your own ways to shine a light into the darkness.
A good link is the Friends Committee on National Legislation, which has put this war top and center among their concerns.
FCNL's mission: "We seek a world free of war and the threat of war. We seek a society with equality and justice for all. We seek a community in which every person's potential may be fulfilled. We seek an earth restored."
We'd like to welcome Chandra Lacombe to the kalimba community. Chandra is another Brazillian kalimba player who has a strong spiritual component to his kalimba playing. He plays a beautiful 15-note kalimba with the same tuning as the Hugh Tracey 15-note Alto kalimba. His web site is http://www.chandralacombe.com.
Check out this cool music and video from Sergio Tchernev. I think he is "kalimba synching" - i.e., the recorded music was played before the video was shot, so it isn't clear to me if the use of the gourd for a wah-wah device is real or not. If it is, this is a cool innovation.
If you have any questions, or if you have suggestions for future newsletter topics or Tip Of The Day ideas, please share them with me! -Mark