Kalimba Community

Kalimbas on Tiles

Are you doing something cool with the kalimba? Have you released a new CD, or a new video on YouTube? Do you have an upcoming kalimba performance? Do you have some cool photos to share? Contact us and we'll get you into the Community page to help share your news with the kalimba world!

Lucinda Ellison's Kalimba
Gourd kalimba by Lucinda Ellison

Beautiful Kalimbas from Lucinda Ellison

Lucinda Ellison has been making some of the most beautiful kalimbas in the world for decades. My friend Glen calls them "boutique kalimbas", but I think of them more as "gallery kalimbas." I think you will agree that her kalimbas are works of art.

I love the symbolism of the kalimba made from a gourd shown to the left. The fine detailed carving on the back of the kalimba makes it look like a shekere, which is a percussive instrument made from a gourd covered by a web of string with seeds, beads, or shells attached. The double bridge design is a popular one for Lucinda. I believe the upper tines are an octave above the lower row of tines.

Lucinda Ellison is one of a handful of great American kalimba innovators who had persevered with building high quality instruments over the years. But she has not been able to make instruments for the last several years and has only a small collection of kalimbas left.

Now is a good time to honor her art and service. To purchase a Lucinda Ellison kalimba, you can contact her at harmonicjourney ("at") gmail.com or visit her website, Harmonic Journey.


Steve Hackley's Music Box Kalimba

Steve Hackley writes:

There is one exception to my endorsement of your point about linear [note] layouts--music box combs. They seem to work fine in a linear arrangment. Perhaps the rigidity of the tines prevents the spread of vibrations from the particular tine being played.

Music Box Kalimba
Click image for enlargement.

I bought an expensive music box mechanism (72 notes, $270) and built a sort-of kalimba out of it. Despite the fact that there were 72 tines and that the mechanism was designed to receive different cylinders for different melodies, it still did not have all of the notes. Only one of the 3.5 octaves was complete. I used multicolored pens to mark the 12 different notes and mounted it in a nice cigar box with a second comb to make up for the missing notes. I filed down some Alaskan thumb picks to pluck it with. The sound is great but it's too slow to play so I've pretty much set it aside.

Wow, and I thought the Hugh Tracey Treble's tines were close together! —Mark


Kalimba Videos

There is a lot of great kalimba video!

One more video of note: Oumar Sagna from Casamance, Senegal (West Africa) performs his Diola (jola) tribe music with his band Sindoolaa. Mariama is a song for his daughter of the same name. Oumar is playing the Kalimba.

Writes Oumar, on leading a band while playing karimba: It is not easy to lead the band while playing the Kalimba. That's why we rehearse in a way they know where to drop out and where the transitions are etc... But most of the times my guitarist helps leading when I am stuck with an instrument. I did retune some of the notes of the karimba. Usually it's to fit the song I am playing that I retune it. My band is actually bigger. There are more drummers. And when we do a show that involves more tradition, we include more dancers. It can go up to 15 people. The dancers come out for their piece and go back.


A Note Inspired by Nowhere Man

A note inspired by Nowhere Man on YouTube - which is about to exceed 50,000 views:

Very nicely done, great melody too! Reminds me when I lived in Africa, in Kinshasa in the 70's. Those sounds were pretty common in the neighborhoods and always attracted my interest. We had a guard (sinzili) in the yard all night long, and some of them would play the kalimba (mbira) and the melodies were continuous. I would then run out and listen to them play around a bonefire for hours. Cheers! —Luc


The Brain Science of Improvisation

This is so cool—and a bit embarassing, like I've been exposed for just why I love to improvise: when jazz musicians improvise, the ME part of their brain lights up, and the self-censoring part tunes out. Listen to musican and brain researcher Dr. Charles J. Limb's podcast to get the full picture.

Daniel Amador's Kalimba
Kalimba by Daniel Amador

Daniel Amador makes Kalimbas in Portugal

Daniel writes: My name is Daniel Amador and I'm from Portugal. I have a great passion for traditional instruments and other odd instruments. That passion has brought me to make my own instruments with no previous skills whatsoever! The result, if I may say, was a great surprise for me because I never thought I was a craftsman!!! I began with the construction of cajons for me and then for my friends and now I'm making a truly wonderful instrument....the kalimba. My enjoyment and satisfaction of this work is so great that I'm wondering the idea of making a life out of it with the production of these and other traditional instruments."

I have not played one of Daniel's kalimbas, but I can see in the wood, the arrangement of tines, and the finishing of the tines that Daniel puts a lot of love and knowledge into his instruments. So, as one master kalimba maker lays down her tools (see story about Lucinda Ellison above), another master maker begins. You can get in touch with Daniel at danielamador ("at") hotmail.com

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