Articles tagged with: mbira nyunga nyunga

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.

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.

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!

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.

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. 

14 April 2017

Andrew Tracey Reviews Our Newest Karimba Book

Written by Andrew Tracey, Posted in News and Announcements

Hugh Tracey's son, Andrew, is "THE" expert on Karimba Music

Andrew Tracey, ethnomusicologist, musician, and now-retired director of ILAM (the International Library of African Music), is a noted authority on karimba and mbira. He did much research and study in the field on these two instruments. Andrew has written several seminal scholarly papers on these instruments giving us much of what we know and understand about them today. A few months back I sent him my new karimba book "About 30 Traditional African Songs for the Hugh Tracey African Karimba" and here is his thoughtful review.

"Congratulations on your work, may it spread the knowledge of one of the best-known African instruments, and may it bring many more musicians to Africa to learn to play it!"

08 November 2016

Karimba Music: Chiwoniso's Song "Chaminuka"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Free tablature for "Chaminuka," for A-17 or F-15 instruments

Karimba Music: Chiwoniso's Song

We have featured the music of the late Chiwoniso before at Kalimba Magic.  Chiwoniso was a talented and charismatic singer and karimba player (which she simply called an mbira). She was also the daughter of Dumisani Maraire (Dumi), who is credited with bringing both the marimba band movement and the karimba to America, starting around 1968.  Dumi was educated about music at the Kwanangoma School of African Music in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe). Chiwoniso grew up traveling with her father and learning African music, between Zimbabwe and Washington state.

I am happy to bring you yet another of Chiwoniso's songs - featuring her gorgeous playing and singing - in tablature for both the A-17 and F-15 karimbas - along with my analysis and speculations on this music.

What you are hearing is the video at the bottom of this article presenting the beginning of a concert given by Chiwoniso. The sound makes it a bit tricky to understand her spoken words, but she is discussing her instrument and its history, and she also introduces the song "Chaminuka", which she named after a great prophet, seer, and healer in the history of the Shona people, who foresaw the coming colonization of their land and always preached love and understanding of each others' differences. (He must have had premonitions of great violence and sadness, things that seem to have been universally experienced when a civilization was invaded and taken over by another.)

01 October 2016

The Karimba Song "Kakaiwa" - Free Tablature and MP3

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A karimba song that echoes more complex mbira music structure

The Karimba Song

"Kukaiwa" is one of my favorite songs in our recently published "About 30 Traditional Karimba Songs" book and instructional download.  This arrangement comes to us from kalimba maven Ivodne Galatea, who mentions that CD liner notes indicate that "Kukaiwa" may be traditional, or it may be original to Dumisani Maraire. Mariaire brought the marimba band movement to the western United States in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. He may also be the man who first brought the karimba, which he called mbira nyunga nyunga, to the USA.

 

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.

13 April 2016

New Tip Series for Three Exotic Pentatonic Tunings

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

How to understand a new tuning, and how to make sense of the tuning charts

New Tip Series for Three Exotic Pentatonic Tunings

The pentatonic scales have a great power, related to the fact that playing them does not require as much thought as other scales demand. They have fewer notes, and they are simpler instruments, both physically (with more space between adjacent tines) and intellectually. However, there are some important basic things that you should know about pentatonic scales, and these little bits of wisdom are applicable to almost any scale at all.

In other words, learn the lessons these simple scales have to teach, and you can take those lessons to any kalimba and any tuning you want.

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?

 

24 March 2016

Learn "Vana Vanogwara" on Karimba - Chiwoniso

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Learn the Song Vanavogwara on Karimba

Learn

In 2013, a legendary figure in African music was suddenly taken from us. Chiwoniso Maraire was a shining light, a great singer and a great player of the mbira nyunga nyunga, also known as the African tuned karimba.

Her instrument of choice is of interest to us for two reasons. Andrew Tracey hypothesizes that this is the original mbira first made in southern Africa some 1300 years ago. But Chiwoniso had a more personal connection to this instrument - the mbira nyunga nyunga was the instrument played, and made famous in America, by her father, Dumisani Maraire - or Dumi as his friends knew him.