Articles tagged with: Hugh Tracey

20 October 2019

Cornelius Duncan Plays Hugh Tracey Kalimba on The #1 Jazz CD

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

After playing for 40+ years, Cornelius Duncan has jumped to the top!

Cornelius Duncan Plays Hugh Tracey Kalimba on The #1 Jazz CD

Cornelius Duncan has been playing his Hugh Tracey Alto kalimba in this "Duncan tuning" for most of his life. But he did not invent this tuning - rather, it came from his brother, Phillip Allen Duncan.

A stunning YouTube video of Cornelius Duncan playing his special-tuned Hugh Tracey Alto kalimba has had just 2000 views over its 7-year life. Cornelius’ music honors legendary 1960s jazz saxophonist John Coltrane by playing a song that reflects Coltraine's song, “A Love Supreme.” The song, called "A Kalimba Supreme" is serious and meditative, showing the master kalimba player offering his strands of music to Coltrane the jazz master, as well as to us all.

But how did Cornelius and his kalimba end up on the country's #1 selling jazz album?

12 November 2019

Octaves on the 17-Note Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

On most kalimbas, including the 17-Note Kalimba in C, octave pair notes will be on opposite hands

Octaves on the 17-Note Kalimba

Here is a great tip to help you play the 17-note kalimba. Actually, most "regular" kalimbas follow this rule, so read on even if you have an 8-Note, an Alto, a Treble, or a Pentatonic kalimba.

"Regular" kalimbas have low notes in the center, and as you go farther from the center, notes get higher. Consecutive notes alternate from right to left, going outward as you go up the scale.

Consider the scale "Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do" = "1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8." If the low note, "Do" is on the right side, and the "Re" note is on the left side... you will find that the high "Do" is on the left side of the kalimba, on the hand opposite the lower version of the same note.

Check out what this means when you're playing the kalimba!

19 November 2019

New: Duncan-tuned Alto Kalimba and Book

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This is the tuning Cornelius Duncan uses on his track on Poncho Sanchez' Acclaimed CD "Trane's Delight"

New: Duncan-tuned Alto Kalimba and Book

One of the key features of most kalimbas: You will find the higher-octave note on the opposite side from where you find that same note an octave lower. For example, low C is on the right, and the C that's an octave higher is on the left side of the kalimba. This layout (which is of alternating ascending notes) completely informs how the instrument is played and the resulting music.                                       

But what if there were a tuning where a given note that is on the right side... stays on the right side in the upper octaves? Such a tuning would be played totally differently than the standard kalimba tunings, and it would also make quite different music.

Are you interested in making totally different music and getting a totally different kalimba experience, just for the price of a new tuning? Come with me as we explore the Duncan-tuned kalimba tuning!

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?

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.

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.

12 December 2016

“Kalimba” The Movie

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

AZPM video program about kalimbas, Mark, and Kalimba Magic. And a challenge!

“Kalimba” The Movie

Kalimbas are an exotic and intriguing musical experience to many, and recently Arizona Public Media (AZPM) created “Kalimba,” which was broadcast on their weekly TV magazine Arizona Illustrated.  “Kalimba” features the kalimba and Mark Holdaway, founder and owner of Kalimba Magic in Tucson, Arizona. This quick tour gives a brief overview of Mark's kalimba universe and the history and sound of this diverse family of instruments known as “lamellophones,” with excellent depictions of many fascinating modern and ancient kalimbas and their cousins.

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.

08 March 2016

The Story of the Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The history of the thumb piano in Africa and how the kalimba got to be a household name

The Story of the Kalimba

I just gave a presentation on the kalimba at the OLLI-UA  (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Arizona) in Tucson, and decided to share with you the Powerpoint of the presentation (actually it's a PDF of the Powerpoint).  A great thing about this 45 page PDF presentation is that it has many clickable links to interesting sound recordings and YouTube videos, which really make the presentation come alive.  One negative is that at a number of places, I made instructions to myself to play a certain song, or show a particular kalimba; these instructions are not presently linked to anything, so these parts of the presentation will be missing for the time being.