I invite you to listen to one of my favorite Christmas carols, Carol of the Bells. You can download this for free, keep it on your computer, share it with your friends.
Also, check out this cool version of Jingle Bells by Bernie Wire, who plays a rather unique kalimba style - he gets two Alto kalimbas right next to each other and plays with his fingers. This means that either hand has access to every note on the kalimba (in this way, not unlike the Array Mbira). Bernie, welcome to the Kalimba Community.
And to round out Christmas music, check out Patti Broussard, the growing master of the Array Mbira who has posted some great Christmas music on YouTube. We also welcome Patti to the Kalimba Community.
YOU are getting this newsletter because you are already part of the kalimba community--you have bought a kalimba or you have corresponded with me concerning kalimbas. You are on the inside now, and so I am happy to extend these special offers to you, my valued customer and/or fellow kalimba enthusiast:
NOTE: Some people have reported having trouble using the coupons online. When purchasing at the Kalimba Magic Shop, I highly recommend that you cut and paste the coupon codes listed above. If you don't get see that you are getting a discount, please email me or call me, and we'll figure out something (i.e., a partial refund by check or a complimentary book or CD). OR, if you prefer, call me up at (520) 881-4666 and place your order by phone and we'll calculate the discount.
Kalimba Magic has a brand new demo CD: An Assortment of Kalimbas, which features eight short pieces demonstrating some of the great kalimbas available at Kalimba Magic: the African Karimba, the Alto Kalimba, the Treble Kalimba, the Pentatonic Kalimba, an electric kalimba, and the Hokema Sansula. Each piece has two kalimbas, showing some of the ways that kalimbas can work together. Seven of the eight pieces also have a Cloud Nine marimbula playing bass. I am planning to give these CDs out with every kalimba purchase, but if you would like one, just drop me a line and I'll send you one.
By next month, I hope to have tablature for most of these songs available on the web so that you can easily learn how to play these songs.
I call your attention to the series of Tips that are currently running:
Rambles is an online cultural arts magazine that reviews the top notch commercial CD releases right alongside the independent CD releases. This is such a blessing in a world where corporate backing often seems to be everything, even though some of the independent music is better than a lot of the corporate music.
You can read the Rambles review of my 2006 CD Between the Dark and the Light, and you can download a few songs or purchase the CD at the Kalimba Magic Shop. Don't forget the coupon code 5Bucks to get $5 off this week! (Complete coupon info near the top of this newsletter).
Young children and older adults are almost always amazed by the beautiful sounds of the kalimba, but there ARE people in-between that seem to be insensitive to the shimmering beauty of this instrument. For the most part, the kalimba's music is ethereal and spiritual--maybe the grind of working and making a living beats the magic out of us in-betweeners, but the very young and the very old are open enough to be touched and moved by the kalimba.
I have had a very hard time getting standard music gigs on the kalimba. Managers of noisy bars know what sells beer--loud music! One of them told me "I bet you never make a single dollar from that silly instrument." Since then, I've proven him wrong thousands of times.
Fortunately, there are still significant opportunities to make beautiful music for the very young and the very old. Make joy and beauty for the people who appreciate it! In this newsletter, we'll focus on the various populations of elders.
Your Parents: If you are old enough that your parents are elderly (and alive), and you have a good relationship with your parents, play some music for them. Your parents are good people to exercise your compassion with. Hopefully, they will be honest and tell you what works and what doesn't work, and even tell you what music they would love for you to learn on the kalimba. In short, parents are a good place to start to help you break into the market of playing music for elderly people.
Entertainment Director: This is the person you need to talk to if you want to play kalimba at an adult care facility. They are usually friendly people who are overworked (at least if they are doing their job). They are constantly bombarded by musicians who want to play music at their place, many of whom aren't up to the task, so they tend to feel like a closed door. However, they open up if you spend 30 seconds showing them how magical the kalimba sounds. They are always looking for something new, but they are also looking for a performer who is not aloof and engages their audience. They are looking for good musicians who are also interesting and have a capacity for compassion for older people with failing health.
Assisted Living: Many people in assisted living have their heads together, but just need some help getting around. Many of them are fairly sophisticated and have travelled around the world. Medicare usually doesn't pay for assisted living, so many assisted living communities are relatively affluent and can pay for music concerts and the CDs of your music that you might bring. While they appreciate music from the years when they were young (i.e., the 1940's, 1950's, and 1960's), their minds are usually nimble enough to appreciate new tunes as well. They enjoy hearing about the kalimba's African history, as well as the inroads it is making in popular society.
Nursing Homes: People of all stripes land in nursing homes. Some of them have all of their mental facilities, and some of them have lost quite a bit. If you do a performance, people will be wheeled into the performance space. I actually prefer going door to door and playing for people individually (usually there are two folks to a room), but entertainment directors tend not to prefer that. The most important thing is to connect with these people as whole human beings.
Hospice: Medicaid will pay for up to 6 months of hospice, or end of life care. Most hospice situations require a whole other level of sensitivity, and some special training is usually required unless you are just playing for a friend or relative who is dying. I know of several harp players who specialize in peaceful music for hospice patients. The kalimba's harp-like tones and beautiful peaceful sounds combined with supreme portability make this instrument an obvious choice for hospice work. When I play for a hospice patient, my aim is to fill that person's heart with love and beauty and light and peace, to surround them with all the good things I possibly can.
Finding Listings: In this day, the Iinternet is so useful that it makes you wonder how anybody did anything at all 20 years ago. So, go to your favorite search engine (Google or Alta Vista) and type something like "Assisted Living Tucson" or "Adult Care Phoenix", and you will get thousands of hits. One of those hits, probably one on the first page, will contain a listing of dozens if not hundreds of places you will be interested in contacting. Or, start small - if you visit someone regularly at a care facility, you will have a good opportunity to meet the entertainment director.
What to Play: Probably the most important thing is to play music that is fun and that makes you--and your audience--feel good. Be uplifting. Be authentic. Your job is to really connect with the people you are playing for. Blowing their minds by playing music on a magical instrument that they've never heard helps too. If you can sing and play kalimba at the same time, there are a lot of songs you can do. Pay attention to the populations of people you are playing for. Ask the entertainment director what they think works. And when people request songs you don't know, write down the titles and see if you can learn them for your next gig.
Sound System: The kalimba is not an extremely loud instrument, and it may require amplification. Many elder care facilities have sound systems, but most are not great and some are plain bad. Make sure you understand what they have before you show up. For an instrument such as the kalimba, I find that having extra power is beneficial for a good clear sound. Of course, I prefer having no sound system: when I play acoustically, I can bring the kalimba right under everyone's eyes, I can move around, I can dance. That is the best way, but it only works in small rooms and for small groups. If your group is larger than about 20 or 30 people, you will probably need a sound system to amplify your kalimba.
I am finding that one of the most important aspects of playing for elders is the way this activity is changing me. I find that my capacity for love and patience is increasing. Most people have seen someone who is old and in very bad shape and have been somewhat scared or even freaked out by some aspect of their situation. I can tell you that feeling goes away, and I can tell you that I have always found ways of relating to and connecting with essentially every person I have played for. So, while your music may be a blessing for the people you are playing for, you yourself will be the proof of its transformative power. In other words, sharing your gift in this way will make you feel wonderful.
First, if you are unclear on the difference between the mbira and the kalimba, read this article in the previous newsletter!
People often ask me where they can get a good traditional African mbira. I once bought a bad mbira for about $100, and playing it was not a very good experience. That is the extent of my first hand mbira experience, so in the past I have directed people to B. Michael Williams, who usually keeps several good mbiras around for students to purchase.
This note is from David Pomatti, a kalimba and mbira player in Japan:
By the way, the Mujuru mbira instruments are not cheap--about $360 each now, with the falling dollar rate. Solomon Murungu, of Zambuko.com, said he can't stock these instruments because of their high cost to the dealer as well. (But he said he dreamed of owning one himself...so I sent him one during the summer, and he was extremely pleased.)
If you're interested, there are at least two fine sites I've found in Japan:
P.O. Box 425 USPS
10 Juniper Avenue UPS
Reserve NM 87830
We welcome Mary Bourn to the kalimba table as a new retailer in rural southwestern New Mexico. Mary is a long time music lover and music teacher who has specialized in the mountain dulcimer. She turned me onto Dona Nobis Pachem, a most beautiful song that works great on the kalimba. (BTW, I performed Dona Nobis Pachem with Linda Tepper on kalimba last week - thanks so much Mary!) Mary travels around and goes to various musical events where she plays her kalimba, and people used to ask "Where can I get one of THOSE?" Now, when they ask, she'll be ready!
We are jumping the gun a bit, but we expect to have kalimbas
Big Sur Spirit Garden
P.O. Box 574
Big Sur, CA 93920
You can view the entire Kalimba Retailer's List at Kalimba Magic. If there isn't one near you, you can always suggest a music store that you would like to see kalimbas in.
As I mentioned in the last newsletter, my friend purchased a Schalgwerk Marimbula. I find it to be sweet and easy to play. Sardanza (Tark from New Jersey) shows some nice playing on this Marimbula on YouTube, here, there, and everywhere. His microphone doesn't quite pick up the low notes right, and you hear the anharmonic overtones strongly - i.e., in real life, it sounds better!
Multi-instrumentalist/percussionist Jon Keliehor has been playing kalimba for quite some time. One of his CDs features his kalimba playing and is worth checking out!
I've written two new songs on which I accompany myself with kalimba.
Another song,"We Do Not Torture," juxtaposes GWB's assertion that we do not torture with a litany of the things that the army and CIA have done. The sweet kalimba gives an almost hymn-like feeling to this otherwise bleak song. The song isn't available yet, but it will soon be in the intro of a video, which Kyle Johnson is producing about the fate of Mary Burton Risely, Mary Lamb, and Jerry Zawada, three peace activists who were arrested at the gates of Fort Huachuca in southern Arizona for their protests against the Fort's percieved role in the U.S. military's interrogation methods.
I had a thought a couple months ago, about a subject for your newsletter. I was wondering if maybe you could ask various kalimba players what they do for their "hand health." To keep there hands, fingers, finger joints, even elbows healthy and in good working order. For myself, I know after rehearsing the Array, I can have some discomfort. Muscles, tendons, elbow also (but that is also due to puppeteering for many years). I wonder what other artists do? Exercises? Massage? Glucosamine? Me, I do self massage and I've also invested in a parafin wax dip thingy. I dip my hands into the heated wax daily, oh it feels awesome and helps alleviate some of the pain. Taking Aleve is not working well these days. I'm definitely interested in what others do.
My answer is not very enlightening: in the past, I have experienced pain in my hands and wrists from several instruments: guitar, hammered dulcimer, and kalimba - but I love making music so much that I am afraid of losing the physical ability to making music. Whenever I experience the onset of pain, I always back off - instead of forcing myself forward, I look for a way around, by simplifiying the thing I'm trying to do or even just switching to a different instrument.
How about you? Do you have any tricks for keeping your hands happy? Please drop me a line.
From Erich Overhultz, the artist who made the Kalimba Bird CD:
I just found another interesting venue for playing the kalimba. The shopping line.
This past Thanksgiving after dinner, my wife and I went for a drive. This was around 7:30 p.m. Much to our chagrin, we found a line already forming in front of, and around, the local electronics retailer where we were planning on purchasing a new laptop computer for our daughter in college. Of course this was for the big "Black Friday" discounts on the merchandise.
After some major reluctance, I agreed to run home, get a lounge chair, a book, and yes, my Hugh Tracey Alto Kalimba. And prepare to camp overnight in line for the store to open.
My wife told me,"You can't play the Kalimba in a shopping line-you'll drive the people crazy!" My response was, "I'LL be the one going crazy, with no kalimba to play and everyone else blasting their radios, honking their car horns, and getting irritable. In short, no kalimba, no overnight camping trip."
The night was long. By the time I got back to the store around 8 p.m., I was already number 118 in line. By the time the store opened around 5 a.m., the line had swelled to over a thousand people. Yes people were irritable, and yes, it was noisy, but at spot number 118, the situation was better. That's because I had the kalimba to occupy my time and mind. I'm firmly convinced that without it that night, I probably would have lost my sanity!
Hey Erich - I've never waited in line THAT long, but every day I go to the post office to mail kalimbas, and I often play kalimba while in line. It is a great place to get comfortable with performing in front of people. You can actually play quietly enough that only a few people hear you. I advise you to be sensitive to other folks when you play in line--they will give you little signs if the music irritates them or if they are experiencing wonder and joy.
Do you know Lucinda Ellison? If not, you should definitely check out her beautiful kalimbas. I bought one of her kalimbas for my mother almost 20 years ago, and it appears in my song Kalimba Orchestra on the CD Two Thumbs Up. Like a good wine, Lucinda's kalimba-making artistry just seems to get better and better.
Peace and blessings in your life this holiday season,
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