Articles tagged with: African karimba

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!

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.

05 February 2019

Why Get an African-Tuned Karimba?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Its amazing music puts you in the headspace of Ancient Africa

Why Get an African-Tuned Karimba?

One of the most important things I can say about the kalimba (including the karimba and mbira) is that the understanding of how to play these instruments comes to dwell in my thumbs, while the interpretation of the music into phrases or pulses takes place in my ear or my head.

The brain's frontal cortex is where we slowly puzzle out the music when we're first starting to learn it.  But once we get rolling, it is a different, more primitive part of the brain that is making the music happen - I am guessing it is the cerebellum, which deals with motor control and procedural learning - and that would include learning and playing karimba music. And that is why we can think and talk about something entirely different while we tie our shoes or brush our teeth.

When I play karimba, it feels as if my body is in tune with the ancient Africans when they played similar music, and that my thumbs come to know the way, all on their own.

05 February 2019

For Sale: Imitation Karimbas With Bogus Tuning

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

They copy the form, but what is within? buyer beware!

For Sale: Imitation Karimbas With Bogus Tuning

Half the intelligence of playing kalimba resides within your thumbs, and half the intelligence is collected from the ancestors and embedded in the instrument design and its tuning.

What happens when you copy the form of an instrument, but cut it off from its tradition and replace that with something that you made up?

The 17-note instrument with two levels of tines pictured here looks a lot like a Hugh Tracey African-tuned karimba. It looks like it should play traditonal African music. But it is not the same at all, and does not play traditional African music in this made-up, partially chromatic tuning.

14 January 2019

Tablature for "Karimba Walk"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

You can totally learn how to play this song!

Tablature for

One of my good habits is to walk about 2 miles every morning while I play kalimba. This is time by myself, with the sky above me and the earth below me. It is time with a kalimba in my hands and a song in my heart. It is an essential element of my mental, physical, and spiritual wellness.

Most mornings, I stick with one song for most or all of the walk. I find the song deepens as my walk proceeds. On good mornings, I get an entire new song. And sometimes, I record them.

"Karimba Walk" is a syncopated walking-tempo song that I play here on the Hugh Tracey African-tuned Karimba, in the style of traditional African two-phrase karimba music. And now you can totally learn to play it too!

There are so many juicy details about karimba music here - if you play African karimba, this is a "must read."

18 October 2018

Where can I find African or African-style songs for the Kalimba?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

We actually have a lot of African music for kalimbas

Where can I find African or African-style songs for the Kalimba?

Last week, someone emailed me asking: "I've looked at a lot of your music, and I cannot find the African music! Is there any actual African music for the kalimba?"

The answer is YES! Although admittedly, I do provide a lot of other types of music - Sansula music, folk tunes, Christmas songs, Elvis songs, nursery rhymes, New Age music... and it is easy to get lost. But there is plenty of African stuff here!

'Way back around 10 years ago, I was embarrassed about how little I knew about African music, and how little of it I offered at Kalimba Magic. But now, after a lot of work, learning and playing, all of that has changed, and we actually have a LOT about African music.

24 March 2017

Three Modes in Traditional Karimba Music

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Africans and Europeans Both Used This Cool Trick

Three Modes in Traditional Karimba Music

Generally, when you encounter a kalimba, it is usually in a particular key.  The Alto usually comes in G major.  The Bb Treble comes in Bb.  The 17-Note African-tuned karimba comes in A (unless we retune it), and the 15-note karimba (aka mbira nyunga nyunga) comes in F.

One usually plays a G major kalimba in G; but there are other ways.  You can actually pick a different note on the kalimba and make that one be the root note.  You establish a particular note as the root note by emphasizing it as "home base."  You can emphasize a note as "home base" by starting or ending a song on that note, or by playing it more often that the other notes.

If you use an alternative note (not the key note of the kalimba) as the root note, then you are playing in a different "mode" than the one suggested by its original key.  The different modes have different scales, each with its unique melodic flavor.

In a noteworthy twist, traditional karimba music uses different modes in the same manner that western music does.  What makes this remarkable?

31 March 2017

F-sharp Karimba Instead of a Karimba in F?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Chiwoniso found just where her voice fit, and it was on an F# karimba

F-sharp Karimba Instead of a Karimba in F?

Chiwoniso, the late, gifted Zimbabwean-American musician, played a 15-note karimba. This instrument was originally taught at the historic Kwanangoma School of African Music in Zimbabwe, popularized by her father Dumisani Maraire as the "mbira nyunga nyunga." It was usually tuned to the key of F. But Chiwoniso played her own 15-note in F#, in a not-uncommon musical strategy. 

07 October 2016

"Vitamin K" and Falling in Love with the African tuned karimba

Written by Leslee Morrison, Posted in News and Announcements

Learning tablature, and a new book, opened up the exciting and beautiful world of traditional African songs. By leslee morrison

For me, learning the African tuned karimba with its repertoire of ancient African music is an  infusion of new excitement and inspiration in my playing. I call it "Vitamin K". The instructions that came along with my new Hugh Tracey 17-note karimba said that it is a beginner's instrument; but with 17 tines instead of the 11 that I was familiar with, and with the additional “buzzers,” I discovered that a lot of new and exciting sound can come out of the karimba, far beyond what I experienced with my other kalimbas.

11 October 2016

TIP: Playing "Mahororo" on the African Karimba - 5 / 5

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

This traditional mbira song transfers well to karimba

TIP: Playing

"Mahororo" is usually played on the mbira dzavadzimu (commonly called the mbira), and is one of the classic songs that fit the chord progression described by Andrew Tracey in his seminal 1973 paper "The System of the Mbira" which studies in depth the ages-old mbira playing of the peoples he and his father Hugh studied for decades. This implies that "Mahororo" is probably one of those "old songs" - meaning it may be something like 500 - 800 years old.

Ivodne Galatea pointed out that it could be played on the karimba. With several arrangements of "Mahororo" under my belt, I am happy to present here the tablature for my latest and best arrangement of the song, which you can follow on YouTube.

04 October 2016

TIP: Playing "Mahororo" on the African Karimba - 4 / 5

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

This traditional mbira song transfers well to karimba

TIP: Playing

"Mahororo" is usually played on the mbira dzavadzimu (commonly called the mbira), and is one of the classic songs that fit the chord progression described by Andrew Tracey in his seminal 1973 paper "The System of the Mbira" which studies in depth the ages-old mbira playing of the peoples he and his father Hugh studied for decades . This implies that "Mahororo" is probably one of those "old songs" - meaning it may be something like 500 - 800 years old.

Ivodne Galatea pointed out that it could be played on the karimba. With several arrangements of "Mahororo" under my belt, I am happy to present here the tablature for my latest and best arrangement of the song, which you can follow on YouTube.

27 September 2016

TIP: Playing "Mahororo" on the African Karimba - 3 / 5

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

This traditional mbira song transfers well to karimba

TIP: Playing

"Mahororo" is usually played on the mbira dzavadzimu (commonly called the mbira), and is one of the classic songs that fit the chord progression described by Andrew Tracey in his seminal 1973 paper "The System of the Mbira" which studies in depth the ages-old mbira playing of the peoples he and his father Hugh studied for decades . This implies that "Mahororo" is probably one of those "old songs" - meaning it may be something like 500 - 800 years old.

Ivodne Galatea pointed out that it could be played on the karimba. With several arrangements of "Mahororo" under my belt, I am happy to present here the tablature for my latest and best arrangement of the song, which you can follow on YouTube.

 

16 September 2016

Practice TIP: Experiment with Changing Volume Levels

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Playing strong can help you learn; playing softly can help you discover the "feel" of the music

Practice TIP:  Experiment with Changing Volume Levels

Don't you hate all those internet ads that start with "Try this one weird trick" and then promise that if you do, it will change your life in a profound way?

Well, I have something for you that may seem like a weird trick, but it is really a great little tool that indeed has had a profound effect on my own kalimba, karimba, and mbira playing.

People tend to play kalimba music with every note at the same volume level.  But I can point to three big benefits you can get from changing up the volume level in your kalimba playing. 

20 September 2016

TIP: Playing "Mahororo" on the African Karimba - 2 / 5

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

This traditional mbira song transfers well to karimba

TIP: Playing

"Mahororo" is usually played on the mbira dzavadzimu (commonly called the mbira), and is one of the classic songs that fit the chord progression described by Andrew Tracey in his seminal 1973 paper "The System of the Mbira" which studies in depth the ages-old mbira playing of the peoples he and his father Hugh studied for decades . This implies that "Mahororo" is probably one of those "old songs" - meaning it may be something like 500 - 800 years old.

Ivodne Galatea pointed out that it could be played on the karimba. With several arrangements of "Mahororo" under my belt, I am happy to present here the tablature for my latest and best arrangement of the song, which you can follow on YouTube.

13 September 2016

TIP: Playing "Mahororo" on the African Karimba - 1 / 5

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

This traditional mbira song transfers well to karimba

TIP: Playing

"Mahororo" is usually played on the mbira dzavadzimu (commonly called the mbira), and is one of the classic songs that fit the chord progression described by Andrew Tracey in his seminal 1973 paper "The System of the Mbira" which studies in depth the ages-old mbira playing of the peoples he and his father Hugh studied for decades . This implies that "Mahororo" is probably one of those "old songs" - meaning it may be something like 500 - 800 years old.

Ivodne Galatea pointed out that it could be played on the karimba. With several arrangements of "Mahororo" under my belt, I am happy to present here the tablature for my latest and best arrangement of the song, which you can follow on YouTube.

28 July 2016

Hugh Tracey's Field Recordings from Africa are Alive and Well at ILAM

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The man who created the modern kalimba movement also worked to preserve traditional African music

While Hugh Tracey is best known for the Hugh Tracey kalimba, I believe his most important work was the assemblage of 35,000 field recordings he made through the 1930s, '40s, and '50s of traditional music across sub-Saharan Africa.

These recordings captured music across Africa just before much of the traditional music was eclipsed and even erased by modern European influences such as the western scale, choral church music, and western popular music, which were propagated by radio and recordings. 

Today, Tracey's historical recordings are alive and well and accessible. Anyone can listen to them. Their story follows, as well as how they are being brought to life in our time.

21 July 2016

Now The Book: 30 Traditional African Karimba Songs

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This 72-page book contains the music to about 30 traditional karimba tunes

Now The Book: 30 Traditional African Karimba Songs

It is my feeling that "About 30 Traditional Kalimba Songs..." is the most significant kalimba book I have written to date. This book is written from the point of view that the karimba is a living relic; I believe that the kalimbas that were played over a millenium ago had very similar note layouts to the lower half of the two-tiered modern karimba. This means that the music in this collection of wonderful traditional tunes could be very similar to the music that people in Africa played more than 1000 years in the past! When I play these songs, I imagine myself experiencing something of what ancient kalimba players may have thought and felt as they created and played similar music. A unique and magical connection!

Now, don't you want to get some of that?

If you have a karimba already, you need this book. And if you don't have a karimba, you might want to consider getting one - that's how good this book is.

07 August 2016

TIP: Playing the African Karimba - "Kuzanga"!

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Here is the mbira song "Kuzanga," translated onto the karimba - get the tablature for free!

TIP: Playing the African Karimba -

I have been learning to play "Kuzanga" on the mbira, a 24-note traditional African lamellaphone that in my mind represents one of the pinnacles of ancient African ingenuity and art. 

I realized earlier today: it should be possible to play "Kuzanga" on the African karimba - and it is!  Included here, for your benefit, is tablature of "Kuzanga" for the karimba, for free!  Enjoy.

02 April 2016

The Definitive Collection of Traditional African Karimba Music

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This 74-page PDF download has the music to about 30 traditional tunes

The Definitive Collection of Traditional African Karimba Music

This is one of the books I've been wanting to write for around five years, and now, with much-appreciated contributions from Ivodne Galatea, I am proud to present this collection of tunes for the African-tuned karimba.

This book is written from the point of view that the karimba is a living relic; I believe that instruments were played over 1000 years ago that had very similar note layouts to the lower half of the modern karimba . This means that the music in this collection could be very similar to the music that people in Africa played more than a millenium in the past. Now, don't you want to get some of that?