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Don Shapiro sent me a kalimba he had had on the wall for a while. When I looked at it, I realized it was an out-of-tune chromatic kalimba. This design was patented in 1976 by Sacred Sound Musical - serial number B0071. The idea behind this two bridge kalimba was to copy the Hugh Tracey Alto kalimba for the lower bridge in G major, while the upper bridge is tuned one half step lower than the main bridge, in F# major. This gives you every note chromatically over two octaves, and provides F#'s and B's on both the upper and lower bridges.
This design is remarkably similar to the Hugh Tracey G Chromatic featured in this month's newsletter - except the Hugh Tracey G Chromatic does not double the F# and B, and the chromatic notes are placed on the back of the kalimba rather than above the main Alto bridge.
Tuning diagram for Don's Chromatic Kalimba.
By the way, the notes on the lower bridge are difficult to tune, like pulling teeth, and those tines' inaccessibility makes it difficult to fix buzzes. The double bridge mechanism is cumbersome, but has remained intact for approximately 30 years.
This is very instructive. Eric Freeman plays a bass kalimba made by Andrew Masters. To control the sustain on the low notes, i.e., to prevent them from being too boomy and long-hanging, he wraps them with rubber bands. He tunes with a hammer (I myself tune with my fingers - figure what you like).
This kalimba is made from recycled materials—a plastic petroleum container! But after he installed the pickup, he could no longer bring it on a plane: "What is this, a gas tank hooked up to some wires?"
While we're talking about Eric Freeman, we should note that he is a master mixer and recording engineer, and his second Kalimba Sound System recording is available in bits and pieces at his MySpace.
Lenox Mayes has a great-looking new CD out called Kalimba Echo - he is negotiating his next move, but right now, you can get this music on iTunes.
From B. Michael Williams:
We've added a new blog to my website with several posts, including some mbira transcriptions for those who may be interested. There is an announcement there about NAFDA South, which will be held in the Atlanta area September 12. My students and I will be there to perform some new works on the evening concert. Check out the blog at my website!
There have been some recent additions to my YouTube page, including selections from the Winthrop University Percussion Ensemble's concert from this past spring.
Next month, we'll be doing an interview with Olusegun Williams, a long time kalimba player and African drummer and percussionist in Florida. Says Williams:
I bought my first Hugh Tracey Kalimba sometime in the '70's. My repertoire includes Caribbean and African-American folk songs, African songs (some with stories), reggae, jazz, and some original music. I have kalimba tracks on two recently released CDs by local artists in the Tallahassee area and a third to be released soon. I also work part time as a substitute teacher in the local public high schools. I often play for students while they are working on class assignments. A little something to "soothe the savage beasts."
I also play a number of percussion instuments, including shekere, conga and djembe drums, as well as flute and keys.