Articles tagged with: Student 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.

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.)

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.

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."

30 December 2016

Songs for the Student Karimba: Borrowing From a Karimba Song

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This old, old instrument lives on and can play lots of 17-Note karimba music

Songs for the Student Karimba: Borrowing From a Karimba Song

The "student karimba" is my own invention - or rather, it is my re-invention.  I came up with the name, but Andrew Tracey calls it the "kalimba core" as well as the "original mbira".  I like to call it “the kalimba that time left behind.” While this little instrument is far from popular these days, it was mentioned in the first scholarly article on the kalimba written in 1950 by missionary A.M. Jones.  I feel this simple instrument’s pattern is truly important because of where it stands in the history of all thumb pianos: it is the likely foremother of every southern African lamellaphone according to Andrew Tracey’s work. He asserts that it began to be used over a thousand years ago.  Playing this "kalimba core" or "original mbira," we are standing where ancient humans stood.

The kalimba core was very likely added-to over centuries to create other instruments. This post looks at ways that this may have happened and how the instruments maintain their original core, and how they and the music they play are related.

And the cool part?  Most African songs that are played on the 17-Note karimba (for which Kalimba Magic has a lot of music) have substantial sections that can be played on these core eight or nine notes. What’s more, music that is intended for the student karimba can be played on the 17-Note karimba too!

05 August 2016

TIP: Playing the Student Karimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

This is the instrument Andrew Tracey calls "The Original Mbira"

TIP: Playing the Student Karimba

If you are a beginning kalimba player who wants to play western music, the 8-Note kalimba is a great place to start. But if you want to play African music, I would recommend you get the Student karimba.

The Student karimba is an 8-note or 9-note instrument that attempts to reconstruct what Andrew Tracey believes was a common instrument over 1000 years ago.  He argues that this instrument gave rise to several other well known traditional instruments, such as the mbira dzavadzimu and the karimba.  As such, there are lots of traditional African songs you can play on this instrument.  Kalimba Magic has two books that work with it.  The Student karimba is a great introduction to the full-sized African karimba.