23 June 2019

More Beautiful Quilted Kalimba Bags from Africa

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

These are made by Louise Sloman-Fuller, now retired from AMI (African Musical Instruments) in South Africa

More Beautiful Quilted Kalimba Bags from Africa

There are now several options out there for kalimba bags and kalimba cases. If you are looking for something really special, check out these quilted bags from Louise Fuller-Sloman. They are charming. I own two of them myself, and I am guessing there are a few of them that you would love too.

We have several new bag designs as of June 2019.

21 June 2019

Kalimba Americana for 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This eBook has Songs From the Soul of America... arranged for your kalimba

Kalimba Americana for 17-Note Kalimba in C

For all the good and bad things you can say about my country America right now, one thing that most people can agree on is that America is a great leader in musical innovation. This has been going on for centuries, and a lot of it has to do with the huge ethnic melting pot that the land of the free has always been.

Know that this great country's great music has always brought people together, across this land and across the world. I invite you to jump into the pot yourself, and learn some of these classics on your 17-Note Kalimba in C.

26 June 2019

A New High-End Electric Nyunga Nyunga

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The Dave Bellinger 15-Note Electric Karimba in F

A New High-End Electric Nyunga Nyunga

Dave Bellinger has long been known for his solid, meticulously crafted and innovative eKalimba designs (an eKalimba is a kalimba with an electric pickup). This one combines a hot pickup (that is, with a very strong output signal), "graphical buzzalizers," and generally smooth design and construction - with the 15 traditional notes of the mbira nyunga nyunga, also known as the karimba in F.

All of this makes the Bellinger F15 Nyunga a great instrument for looping (a looper is a device that instantaneously records what you're doing and plays it back in a loop, so you can layer multiple parts or instruments at the same time). The lower-row notes are the same notes as on the Student Karimba - meaning complete phrases of African songs can be played on its lower-row notes. So, imagine playing a lower-row song into the looper, and coming back and adding upper-row notes to the second pass of the music.

I do that, and much more, in the video at the end of this article.

21 June 2019

Chords on the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

And how to play melodies above them. This recipe works for any diatonic kalimba with alternating note layout

Chords on the 17-Note Kalimba in C


In an article I wrote earlier this month, I said that every non-traditional kalimba in the world owes its existence to Hugh Tracey. (Of course, they also owe their existence to the hundreds and thousands of people in Africa who pioneered and played the karimba, mbira and related instruments over the last 1000 years.) But most non-traditional kalimbas are copies of the Hugh Tracey kalimba's design and note arrangement.

That note arrangement makes it particularly easy to create melodies high up on the instrument, and simultaneously to produce good chords low down on the instrument that perfectly accompany that high melody. Would you like to learn more?

21 June 2019

Rests in Kalimba Tablature

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

What? Those squiggly lines are supposed to mean something?

Rests in Kalimba Tablature

There are going to be some really great kalimba players in the next 2-10 years. A lot of kids are getting into the kalimba, and some of them will study, and go off and work on kalimba on their own, and invent their own style, and then reappear on the world stage as master kalimba players. Cool! Go for it!

One budding young kalimba player has been avidly tearing up all of the instructional material we sell for the 17-Note kalimba in C... but when she didn't understand what those squiggly lines meant, we heard from her about it. Those squiggles are called "rests." Different rests come in different shapes, based on how long of a rest they indicate. And we explain all that here.

21 June 2019

Mbira Songs Collected by B. Michael Williams

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Five + One Volumes of Mbira Dzavadzimu Music

Mbira Songs Collected by B. Michael Williams

I have great news about B. Michael Williams, as well as some sad news. On the plus side, he is making a strong finish to his career as an academic, a percussionist, and a proponent of the mbira and karimba: he has just published his 5th and final volume of mbira songs in his easy-to-read mbira tablature, available from Bachovich Music Publications or Steve Weiss Music.

On the sad side, Michael tells me that he has been diagnosed with both Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. While he had the wherewithal to assemble his final volume of mbira songs, currently he is no longer able to play mbira.

Michael is a great teacher, and helped a lot of people to learn and play traditional mbira and karimba. And even though a lot of my work is non-traditional, he has always given it validity, and his encouragement has meant a lot to me.

So, when you pick up your mbira, your karimba, or your kalimba, please send some of your joy and good vibrations and gratitude to our dear friend B. Michael Williams. Thank you.

 

13 June 2019

Instructional Resources for the Alto Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

There are more books, ebooks, and instructional downloads for the Alto than any other kalimba, and they're all here in this post!

Instructional Resources for the Alto Kalimba

The Alto kalimba has been my favorite kalimba for over 30 years (though I do get infatuated with other kalimbas from time to time, I always come back to the Alto). As such, I have written more books and instructional downloads for the Alto kalimba than for any other kalimba. With so many books to help you on the way, this makes the Alto kalimba a great choice for you.

There are so many reasons why the Alto kalimba is an excellent one to play. If you have small hands, you may want a somewhat smaller kalimba. Otherwise, I think the Alto kalimba can be a great kalimba for you.

13 June 2019

Instructional Resources for the Pentatonic Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This kalimba is great for everyone, beginner to pro!

Instructional Resources for the Pentatonic Kalimba

One thing that was clear after Hugh Tracey's decades of research into the many types of traditional kalimbas in Africa was that a large proportion of them - about 40% - were in pentatonic tunings. This is one of the reasons why Hugh Tracey kalimbas are available in several pentatonic models.

What's so great about the pentatonic scale? Well, with fewer notes (just five per octave), it is conceptually simple, for one. And the Hugh Tracey kalimbas carry that simplicity through to make it physically simpler to play - with larger gaps between the tines, it is easier to play the tine you intended to, meaning that everything is simpler, and you can just relax and really cut loose.

10 June 2019

Instructional Resources for the African Karimba (mbira nyunga nyunga)

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

We have resources for the 17-Note Karimba in the key of A, the 15-Note in F (mbira nyunga nyunga), and Student Karimba

Instructional Resources for the African Karimba (mbira nyunga nyunga)

All of the instruments in the karimba family are very closely related, in fact Andrew Tracey hypothesizes that they all possess the original mbira tuning from 1300 years ago when the first metal-tined instruments were made.

The 8-Note version may actually be the exact replica of the original mbira. Jege Tapera played a 13-note version. It was copied and key-shifted to make the 15-note version of the instrument in the key of F, which is now commonly known as the mbira nyunga nyunga. And AMI has been making the 17-Note karimba in the key of A since about 1980.

Clearly, there is a lot of history here. And a lot of music too.

13 June 2019

My Story of Hugh Tracey

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

He understood the potential loss of traditional African music to the encroachment of the west, and worked his whole life to preserve it

My Story of Hugh Tracey

Hugh Tracey is a complex and important historical figure in the contemporary kalimba world. I should start by stating my relationship to Hugh Tracey: for the last 33 years, I have played instruments he designed, and for about half that time I have made most of my living by selling Hugh Tracey kalimbas. So I might be a little prejudiced, but Hugh Tracey's work was clearly pivotal in the trajectory of modern lamellaphones.

Hugh Tracey, a white European man, cherished traditional African music and made it his life's work to study and preserve that music. But he also invented and marketed the Hugh Tracey kalimba, which is not a traditional instrument at all, and has, arguably, directed some interest away from traditional instruments such as the mbira dzavadzimu or the karimba.

For me though, the Hugh Tracey kalimba has been a doorway to the world of ancient and traditional African music. Would you like to explore that world, and Hugh Tracey's part in it, with me?

05 January 2016

Interview: Andrew Tracey

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This 2008 interview of Andrew Tracey, accomplished kalimba scholar and master of karimba, mbira and kalimba, illuminates the genealogy of African lamellaphones and the history of the Hugh Tracey kalimba

Interview:  Andrew Tracey

During my 2008 visit to his Grahamstown, South Africa home, Andrew Tracey (Hugh Tracey's older son), long-practicing ethnomusicologist and musical performer, shared recollections of his father's work, the early Hugh Tracey kalimbas, the layout of the Hugh Tracey kalimba, and his ethnomusicological research showing the karimba to have the prototypical tuning that was passed down to subsequent instruments such as the mbira dzavadzimu.

We are featuring this article once again as we celebrate Hugh Tracey, Andrew Tracey, and all Hugh Tracey kalimbas this month.

13 June 2019

Instructional Resources for the Treble Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

It was the original hugh tracey kalimba

Instructional Resources for the Treble Kalimba

The Treble kalimba maintains a special place in the history of the kalimba: when Hugh Tracey began to market his new invention in the early 1950s, it was the 17-Note Treble kalimba. The Alto kalimba started selling in the 1960s. The Pentatonic kalimba came in the 1970s as an answer to Earth, Wind and Fire, and the African-tuned Karimba came around 1980, fulfilling Andrew Tracey's dream to popularize this traditional African instrument.  But the Hugh Tracey Treble was THE original Hugh Tracey kalimba.

17 May 2019

How is the Karimba related to the Mbira Nyunga Nyunga?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The mystery of the evolving names of the kalimba

How is the Karimba related to the Mbira Nyunga Nyunga?

Evidence indicates that in 1950, kalimba and karimba were used more or less interchangeably to describe any traditional African thumb piano. Seventy years ago, mbira dzavadzimu meant exactly what it does now - a particular traditional Shona thumb piano - and the mbira nyunga nyunga probably was not even a thing yet. Seventy years ago was just before Hugh Tracey began to build and sell a new instrument which he called a kalimba, which combined features of many traditional instruments and had a western tuning.                                                             

Thumb pianos evolved over time and were affected by numerous influences, ancient and modern, African, European, etc. They have a very rich, varied genealogy. Today, kalimba usually refers to non-traditional thumb pianos. Karimba refers to a particular family of traditional African instruments also known as the African-tuned karimba. Mbira nyunga nyunga, which translates to the "sparkly sparkly mbira" is essentially the same instrument as the karimba, though if it is rustic-looking, it is more likely to be called mbira nyunga nyunga, and a workshop-made instrument might be more likely to be called karimba.

But it isn't exactly that simple, and here I will outline the details of this fundamental discussion.

09 May 2019

Traditional African Music for Mbira Nyunga Nyunga

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This eBook is for the Kwanongoma-style 15-Note Karimba in F

Traditional African Music for Mbira Nyunga Nyunga

The mbira nyunga nyunga, or the 15-Note karimba in F has only been around in this form since 1960. Thousands of Rhodesian (now Zimbabwean) and South African youth were taught the traditional songs on this delightful instrument at the Kwanongoma College of African Music. And, remarkably, it could well be that more than half of the notes on this instrument (and most of the songs for it) are essentially the same as what is thought to be the original tuning of an 8-note instrument invented some 1300 years ago.

And now, we are proud to present this eBook documenting many of the oldest-known songs for the mbira nyunga nyunga.

09 May 2019

eBook for the A minor Karimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A new eBook with material for this exotic minor tuning

eBook for the A minor Karimba

Here is a true story. Lex, a Tucson friend of mine who has hit upon hard times, visited us at Kalimba Magic the other day. Months earlier he had given away his beloved African-tuned karimba so he could put a bad relationship which had included that karimba into the past.

But he really needed to make music, and he came over to see what instrument I had that might speak to him. While we were talking, we wandered past where Sara was editing the new A minor Karimba book, with an A minor karimba next to her that she would play occasionally for reference.

Lex picked up the A minor Karimba and began plucking - and his jaw dropped. Then he smiled and laughed and said "Mysterious and enchanting!" I glanced at Sara's computer screen, but no, the computer was not open to the back cover of the eBook that declares this tuning is "Enchanting and mysterious."  

Obviously the A minor karimba is mysterious and enchanting and Lex went home with an A minor karimba that day.

Yes, Lex's new karimba was the same as the one he'd recently let go of, but in the A minor tuning, it plays quite different music. What a joy!

10 May 2019

The Student Karimba - A Great Introduction to African Music

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Called the "Original Mbira" and the "Kalimba Core" by Andrew Tracey

The Student Karimba - A Great Introduction to African Music

I have heard from people who were disappointed because they bought "too much kalimba" for themselves - meaning they got more notes than they were prepared to deal with (often, 15 or 17 notes turns out to be too many notes for a beginner). For these people, I recommend they start with a 10-note instrument, as this will be easier to get your head around than the larger kalimbas.

Similarly, when people tell me they are disappointed that their "African" kalimba doesn't play African music, I point them in the direction of the karimba (yes, with an "R" in the middle, and no, I don't make these names up myself). And when they find that 15 or 17 notes is too many for them to deal with, I suggest they look into the Student Karimba.

This is a great instrument for children, for adults who may be overwhelmed by bigger kalimbas, and for people who just want a taste of Africa without having to work too hard. (Note: I LOVE to play these instruments myself, and I do perform songs on the Student Karimba. It is a small instrument, but it is also a real instrument.)

09 May 2019

Exotic Minor Chords on the Freygish Karimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This tiny bit of advanced music theory is very simple on the Freygish karimba

Exotic Minor Chords on the Freygish Karimba

Have you ever heard of a "minor major 7" chord? How about a "half diminished 7" chord? Yeah, at the time I had been playing kalimba as long as you probably have, I didn't either.

On the Freygish karimba, you can make the "C minor major 7" chord by simply playing the four tines on the left side of the upper row. You can play the "D half diminished 7" chord by playing the four tines on the right side of the upper row. In other words, you get them for free, and they are easy and obvious.

And THAT is the whole magic of the kalimba: each kalimba can be, and should be, set up to play its own magic in a very simple way.

10 May 2019

A New Painting Option for the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Two Different Colors lets you take instruction from two different sources

A New Painting Option for the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Why are some tines painted? Mainly to help you keep track of where you are on the instrument... but also to assist you in transferring notes from kalimba tablature to the kalimba.

There are now two different systems for painting the 17-Note kalimba in C. The Chinese system paints 5 tines, including the central tine. On the other hand, the Kalimba Magic system paints 6 tines.

If you want to use the Kalimba Magic instructional materials for the 17-Note kalimba in C, you need to use the Kalimba Magic painting system. If you want to use the Chinese instructional materials, you should use the Chinese painting system.

I have recommended people get their kalimbas unpainted, and they can color selected tines with Sharpie marker, which is removable, so you can change to whatever system you end up using, or even go back and forth.

And now - here is a way of painting the tines that embraces both the Chinese and Kalimba Magic systems.

15 April 2019

Easter Hymns for the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Beautiful hymns on the kalimba - what more can I say? Heaven!

Easter Hymns for the 17-Note Kalimba in C

To me, holidays have always been, at their core, about music. The music pervades the essence of the celebration and the ceremony. The music deepens our experience of the numinous moment.

And it gives you a great gift that you can bestow on any around you when you can create such beautiful and moving music. That is why I study Christmas carols, and that is also why I learn Easter hymns.

13 April 2019

Exotic Tunings for 17-Note Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Reinvent your Kalimba, Re-energize your Kalimba Playing

Exotic Tunings for 17-Note Kalimba

If you ever get to the point where you feel your kalimba is old hat, or you cannot think of anything new to do on it, you need to come back to this article.

By retuning your kalimba to a new tuning, you basically get a new instrument that presents you with a new world view and plays new music, all for the price of... the five or ten minutes it will take for you to retune your kalimba.

You would be amazed - these tunings sound so rich and amazing and different! Just listen to each one. Each is a land I would love to explore.

16 April 2019

10 Easy Tips - Scales on the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

These Tips will help you discover new scales on your kalimba - and their format fits perfectly on your phone!

10 Easy Tips - Scales on the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Learning your kalimba's musical scale is very important to understanding your kalimba and the music it can make. The scale is like a magic key that will open many doors. But what if I told you that your kalimba, just as it is, plays several different scales?

Each scale is like a universe of musical possibilities. We have ten tips for you about how to use four different scales, on the 17-Note in C, in your music. Each of these four scales is like a different land, or a different flavor. If you want this sort of richness in your kalimba playing, read on!

17 April 2019

The Kalimba and Transformation

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Humans have transformed the kalimba over millenia. The kalimba can also transform us.

The Kalimba and Transformation

The kalimbas that we play and see today seem like very modern instruments, but the kalimba is rooted in many centuries of history and tradition. As is normal for humans, we have been busy remaking the kalimba and transforming these instruments into something new. It's a process that has been going on for millenia, and people continue to transform the kalimba into something ever more amazing.

But why do all of this work, continually remaking the kalimba?

In part, because of love. Those who love the kalimba have always sought to improve upon it.

In part, because the kalimba is a tool that we, individually, can use to transform ourselves, becoming better humans.

10 March 2019

Finally! A Hard Copy Book for the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The "44 Beginner Songs" Book is a Printed, Paper Version of the Popular 44-Songs Download

Finally! A Hard Copy Book for the 17-Note Kalimba in C

People have been asking me for a hard copy book for the newly popular 17-Note Kalimba in C - the new kalimbas that have been made in China over the last 18 months. These are sold under a variety of names, including Donner, Walter, Gecko, and Heart-17, but all of these are essentially the same instrument, with the same number of tines and the same note layout.  In other words, all of these kalimbas can use the same book.

That book is "44 Beginner Songs for the 17-Note Kalimba in C." This hard copy book has the same material as the ebook download of the same name.

If you have been waiting for a book for your 17-Note Kalimba in C, this is it!

25 March 2019

Kalimba Americana for Alto Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Play favorite folk and popular music on your Alto kalimba!

Kalimba Americana for Alto Kalimba

This is the music I grew up with - the American song book! These are some of the songs that bind us together as citizens of the great American experiment. To many of us, this is some of the sweetest music in the world!

This 54-page PDF download with clickable links to MP3 files has tablature for 29 different versions of 25 different songs. This book has enough easy songs to have a beginner playing right away, and it has enough complex songs to keep you working for months or longer!

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