Wild Blue Pixel
LEARN ABOUT THE KALIMBA
When Christian Carver, the director of AMI, contacted me in 2005, he said that they were considering giving up on kalimba production because of a combination of distribution problems and hardships with kalimba competition from cheaper inferior kalimbas. After Hugh Tracey's death in 1977, AMI very succesfully branched out into building quality marimbas for traditional African music and for western symphonic music. They also make drums and a few other interesting African instruments. These larger instruments have a strong market in Africa, but not many of them get outside of Africa because it is expensive to ship them overseas.
When I heard that AMI might not make kalimbas in the future, I vowed to do everything in my power to help bring the Hugh Tracey Kalimba back to its rightful place of kalimba prominence. Still, after over 45 years on the market, the Hugh Tracey Kalimba is among the best kalimbas available. Most kalimbas you find in music stores or on eBay were made by cheap labor in Pakistan or Bali. There are some high quality producers in the US who have found markets for their instruments. But the Hugh Tracey Kalimbas continue to improve.
Recently, AMI began installing piezo-electric pickups in some of their instruments. These are inexpensive but fairly high quality devices. In addition to the original Treble and Alto kalimba models, AMI now makes a refined version of an instrument called the Karimba (with an "R" in the middle), a traditional instrument from Zimbabwe with a truly ancient note layout (this instrument design and tuning may be the oldest one around, as several different instruments from nearby regions share part of its basic design). AMI continues to bring other kalimba models to the public. And I am committed to bringing top level kalimba instructional materials to the market to support the Hugh Tracey Kalimbas. More kalimba research and development is ongoing at AMI today.
The genie is out of the bottle and we can't ever put it back. Thousands of people around the world are making kalimbas, and there will be dozens of different kalimba choices that you might encounter in music stores or on the internet. But AMI still leads the way in this game. You can count on AMI for the best ideas and the best kalimbas.
For more info, read about the kalimba in wikipedia.