News and Announcements

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!

11 March 2019

How does the Kalimba Relate to the Piano?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The kalimba's unique note layout really affects the music it makes

How does the Kalimba Relate to the Piano?

A customer recently asked:

"I am having a lot of trouble playing my kalimba. I took piano lessons as a child for three years and I think this is the trouble. Is there a tip to help me make sense of reading the kalimba music as opposed to reading piano music?"

The kalimba and the piano are very different instruments! Two big differences between them are that the kalimba only has a small subset of the notes the piano has, and the notes on the kalimba are arranged in a way that is fundamentally different from the arrangement on the piano.

While the general music introduction you got from piano lessons will be helpful on your kalimba journey, the specific muscle memory (and the way you think about reading and playing music) that you developed from playing piano is pretty much irrelevant to playing the kalimba.

15 March 2019

Maurice White's Kalimba Tuning Revisited

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Maurice White (of Earth, Wind & Fire fame) started playing the Hugh Tracey Kalimba in his signature tuning 50 years ago

Maurice White's Kalimba Tuning Revisited

In ancient Africa there were dozens or even hundreds of great kalimba innovators, all lost to the dust of time. These ancestors we must honor, explicitly or implicitly, every time we pick up a kalimba.

Two people of the modern era who have done the most to move the kalimba forward are Hugh Tracey and Maurice White.

Hugh Tracey studied traditional African instruments extensively, and he also made the first commercial kalimbas to be marketed globally, starting in the 1950s. On this website, his name is well known.

Maurice White, leader of the pop and R&B band "Earth, Wind & Fire" is the world's first kalimba star. He played the Hugh Tracey kalimba, but with a twist.

25 March 2019

A cool custom tuning - and live looping!

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Only at Kalimba Magic

A cool custom tuning - and live looping!

This kalimba started life as a standard Hugh Tracey Alto kalimba with pickup, in standard G tuning. What is it now, and how did it get there?

Let's start with "How did this kalimba get to be this way?" This kalimba setup and tuning are the result of a series of requests from one of my repeat kalimba customers, Dajari Makena. He and I have collaborated developing great tunings. He wanted half the tines bent upward. He wanted a unique D minor tuning. He wanted something that reflected Africa. He wanted treble tines on the upper row. And he wanted a special paint job.

Yes, it took a bit of fiddling with, but when this kalimba was born from the imagination of a beloved client and my own interpretative tuning, I was so struck by it that I had to share it with you.

17 February 2019

Learn to Play the 10-Note Kalimba - Revised

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Four high quality instructional downloads will supercharge your kalimba journey

Learn to Play the 10-Note Kalimba - Revised

Kalimba Magic is the leader in kalimba instructional materials. We take that work to the next level with these four instructional eBooks for the 10-Note Kalimba in C. Three of the downloads are formatted for iPad or tablet, but you can use them on your smartphone (or any computer). Each page teaches a bite-sized bit of music. As this music is all cyclical, you repeat those four measures about a dozen times, becoming more sturdy as you go. If you want to hear what each song or pattern sounds like when played by yours truly, just touch the tablature - an MP3 will be downloaded, and you can play along with me!

The Christmas book download is formatted more like a standard book, and will print on 8.5 inch x 11 inch paper. This one is better for a computer screen or a laptop.

25 March 2019

25% off Fancy Quilted Kalimba Bags

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Coupon Code BAG25

Many people have been eyeing these nice kalimba bags made by Louise Sloman-Fuller. Louise knows kalimbas - she worked at AMI in South Africa for almost 20 years, taking big orders and organizing kalimba shipments all around the world. Now she makes arts and crafts, including these sweet, unique bags for kalimbas.

If you have been sitting on the sidelines, now is the time to jump in and make your move with this 25% coupon code.

22 February 2016

Is it Kalimba, Karimba, or Mbira?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

What name should I use for my thumb piano?

Is it Kalimba, Karimba, or Mbira?

When discussing thumb pianos, people use the instrument names kalimba, karimba, mbira, mbira dzavadzimu, and mbira nyunga nyunga - sometimes with specific intent, and sometimes nearly interchangeably.  Where are these different names from, and what do they mean?

17 February 2019

Phia in Australia: A Great, Kalimba Looping Singer/Songwriter

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Don't take my word - listen, watch, and learn

Phia in Australia: A Great, Kalimba Looping Singer/Songwriter

"Phia" is Sophia Exiner from Melbourne, Australia, and she is really skilled at singing, songwriting, playing the kalimba, and live looping. (Looping is electronically repeating a short section of music, permitting a musician to accompany themselves.)

Her kalimba of choice is a Hugh Tracey Celeste Alto. Unlike the standard Alto kalimba, which is mounted on a resonating box, the Celeste Alto is mounted on a flat board and has a flatter EQ curve and no natural "wah," but it has the same notes as the standard Alto.

Anyway, I am quite taken with Phia's music. I especially like the way she weaves multiple kalimba parts together in the looping, and how she builds up complex tapestries of sound with the looper and then drops out the parts to simplify the musical texture of a bridge or chorus.

Enjoy!

17 February 2019

Free Blank Tablature for Various Kalimbas - Updated and Expanded

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Click, Save, Print, and Fill in Your Own Notes

Free Blank Tablature for Various Kalimbas - Updated and Expanded

Playing kalimba is such a liberating activity! You seemingly have nothing but good choices in front of you. You can really cut loose and do whatever you want. Often, it works very well, because most kalimba tunings make success highly probable. And it's really fun to just let things flow.

You can also make great progress on the instrument by developing a new awareness - paying careful attention to something you love that you just came up with while playing, and then playing it again and again.

In my own experience, when a real gem (spontaneously or otherwise) comes to me on kalimba, I start out by NOT thinking much about it, just doing it, and repeating enough so that my body really knows it. Only then do I bring my mind on board to study what my thumbs have been doing.

After I begin to think, I quickly notate the song in tablature so I can capture this gem of a song. Then I can play it any time in the future, no regret for being too lazy to catch a beautiful inspiration.

16 February 2019

Limba Trip - Master of the Treble Chromatic Kalimba

Posted in News and Announcements

It is wonderful to see someone who really understands this challenging instrument!

Limba Trip - Master of the Treble Chromatic Kalimba

Limba Trip is the stage name and YouTube channel for Yohei Kisanuki, an eclectic and amazing player of electric bass and Chromatic Treble Kalimba in Kyoto, Japan. While a number of people have developed competence on the chromatic kalimba, Limba Trip is the most accomplished and most natural player of the Chromatic kalimba that I have seen.

Yohei has approached the Chromatic kalimba as a fully chromatic instrument, capable of playing in any and all keys. As opposed to chromatic instruments, a diatonic kalimba is very forgiving and lets you make nice music even if you don't really know what you are doing, and on the front of the Chromatic is a simple diatonic kalimba. However, to play at Yohei's level, you need to know exactly what you are doing, and you need to have all of the Chromatic's notes at your fingertips. Learn about Yohei's "limba trip" and get free tablature for the 12 diatonic scales on the Chromatic kalimba.

14 February 2019

Resources For the Treble Chromatic Kalimba's Front Side

Posted in News and Announcements

The 17-Note Kalimba in C is exactly the same as the front of the Treble Chromatic

Resources For the Treble Chromatic Kalimba's Front Side

One of the beautiful things about a typical kalimba is that it only has the "right notes." Most kalimbas spell out a particular scale, and every note is a good note for expressing a certain range of music. The downside of that typical kalimba is that it cannot play music that requires chromatic notes (sharps and flats) outside of its particular key or scale.

Enter the chromatic kalimba with its many tines and wide capabilities. In order to maintain the general simplicity of playing most kalimbas, the "naturals" are on the front side and the "flats" are on the back side of this kalimba. Becoming skilled on the chromatic can take a lot of work and time, but meanwhile, there are thousands of songs you can play with just the front notes, and we do have three fantastic downloads that happen to nicely suit the front side of your Treble Chromatic Kalimba.

08 February 2019

Resources For the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Posted in News and Announcements

Everything we have that will work for your 17-Note Kalimba in C

Resources For the 17-Note Kalimba in C

I have recently written some great eBooks for this kalimba. These books use kalimba tablature, which is easy to read and very expressive. In addition to tablature and recordings for each song, these eBooks offer insights into how to read the tablature, how to tune, the kalimba's history, how to accomplish the various moves you need to make on your kalimba, and more. Everything you need to have a wonderful kalimba ride!

Says one recent customer, after she purchased our instructional downloads:

"Mark, I am already practicing the songs and love it. I’ve never played anything in my life and now at almost 70, I am living a dream! Thanks to you."

07 February 2019

33 Intermediate Songs: A Download for 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Classical - African - Americana - Spirituals - And more!

33 Intermediate Songs: A Download for 17-Note Kalimba in C

Learn to play kalimba like a pro, by learning from a pro - that's me, Mark Holdaway!

If you have been working your way through the "44 Beginner Songs" download, then "33 Intermediate Songs" is the next purchase to continue your progress.

This 82-page single PDF download contains the kalimba tablature for all of the songs, and live links to enable you to download the sound recordings I have made to demonstrate each song.

Says one recent happy customer: "I am very impressed with the quality of the ebook I just purchased. With every encounter I am amazed at the amount of work - and care - you put into every single step. The amount charged is beginning to look like a mere pittance in relation to the time and effort you must have expended. Thank you for everything. You are an extraordinary teacher!"

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