Kalimba

Kalimba Magic NEWS
Volume 3, Number 5

June 1, 2008

In This Issue:

What's New at Kalimba Magic
More News of Chromatic Kalimbas
Interview with Eric Freeman and Kimani Lumsden
Christian Carver's Manifesto for Making Instruments
The Great Marimbula Playoff
Kalimba Community


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What's New at Kalimba Magic?

Happy Mark

Kalimba Magic Goes To Africa

At the end of June, Deb and I will be going to Grahamstown, South Africa, to meet with the good people at Afican Musical Instruments who make the Hugh Tracey Kalimbas. I have quite a lot to find out and discover myself, so I invite you to join me in my quest for understanding the kalimba: if you have any questions or suggestions for AMI, just contact me, and I will do my best to relay these questions or suggestions to AMI, and will put them out in an upcoming newsletter.

Annual Kalimba Magic Sale Postponed

Each year for the last two years, I've done a week-long sale on June 20. On June 20 2008, Kalimba Magic will be 3 years old, and I will have been playing kalimba for 22 years. However, this June 20 I'm going to be packing for Africa, leaving Kalimba Magic in the capable hands of my son Tim Holdaway. So, we'll have a birthday bash later in July - about the time I get my VISA bill!

KTabS Runs on Linux and MacOS

This is so cool. My son Tim Holdaway has done a lot for Kalimba Magic. He set up our first web site. He has done the graphics for most of my CDs, he took the photo that is at the top of this page, and he designed the kalimba logo with the sliver-moon sound hole that separates the stories in this newsletter.

Today, he brings the news that he can get KTabS, the totally wonderful Kalimba Tablature Software, to run on the Linux and Mac OSX operating systems with complete functionality using the Darwine operating system conversion freeware. If you don't know KTabS, it is a program for Windows computers that permits you to play kalimba pieces written in tablature - the tablature, or a map of the kalimba tines, appears on your computer screen. When you click on the "play" arrow, the tines you need to play are sequentially highlighted on the screen, and the sound the tines should make comes out of your computer's speakers. This wonderful program also lets you write tablature for any type of kalimba, tuned any way you want. It is a great tool for working on original music or for experimenting with new ideas or new tunings. I myself use KTabS almost every day. When my son asked why I didn't want to run Linux on my desktop computer, I told him it was mainly because KTabS only ran on Windows computer. But now that Tim has figured out the conversion thing, Kalimba Magic is one step closer to running Linux.

We'll write up the details for running KTabS on Linux and Mac OSX, and will provide these to you next month in the newsletter. We'll also forward the instructions to Sharon and Randy at KTabS. If you would like the instruction sheet before the next newsletter comes out, contact us. And, if you are like me and no amount of written instruction can seem to lift the fog of dealing with the computer, Tim will be available for consultation over the phone or email.

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Tim's Logo!

More News of Chromatic Kalimbas

Chromatic Kalimba Chromatic Kalimba Chromatic Kalimba
The new Hugh Tracey chromatic kalimbas have the "white notes" mounted on one side and the "black notes" mounted on the other side.

The chromatic kalimba thing is a big adventure, but I'm not sure how much I am going to be involved in it. Sharon Eaton has spearheaded this instrument - she pushed the idea to AMI in the first place (though Jomo Vibes has said that he pushed the idea with AMI many years ago - he will apparently be coming out with his own chromatic kalimba model shortly). When AMI sent a chromatic prototype to Sharon, she changed the tuning to fit with the way she understood the instrument, and she then demonstrated that the chromatic kalimba could make music in this YouTube video of the chromatic kalimba. I'm sort of left standing here wondering if I can come through and actually make some music on these new, exciting, exotic, and potentially confusing instruments.

I have pre-sold most of the chromatic kalimbas that I've ordered. They will ship from Africa in a few days, which means they will be here in 2-3 weeks. If you have pre-ordered one of these instruments with a $50 deposit, one of these has your name on it, and when they arrive, I'll be asking for the remaining money. They have come in at just under $150. The box-mounted chromatic will be $145, and the board-mounted celeste chromatic will be $130. Shipping will be $10 more. All chromatic kalimbas will come with a built-in pickup. At this time, the chromatic kalimbas are specially priced for you, the kalimba community. Assuming this instrument catches on, the price will increase a bit to make room for retailers to sell them too.

But back to the issue of how to learn to play the chromatic kalimba: we are all in this game together (except for Sharon, who is at least a year ahead of the rest of us). So, in an attempt to educate myself and the community, I will do a series of Chromatic Kalimba tips that will appear when the kalimbas arrive.

Also, we will be having a little contest to see who can make the most impressive music on the chromatic kalimbas. We'll give everyone six months to learn how to play, and then whoever is up to the task can submit an entry (Video or KTabS file), and the best musics will be featured on Kalimba Magic, and we'll throw in something like a free CD of your choice.

Best of luck on this adventure!

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Interview with Eric Freeman and Kimani Lumsden

Kalimba Sound System

Eric and Kimani

Eric Freeman: efreeman45@gmail.com
Kimani Lumsden: manikimani@gmail.com

Kalimba Magic: A major component of the vision behind Kalimba Magic is that thousands of new kalimba players would become inspired to play, and in a few years, there would be dozens of new kalimba-based bands around the world. I had to accept that some of the kalimba music that would come about would surpass what I myself was capable of. Eric and Kimani's first kalimba CD, Kalimba Sound System, is a fulfillment of this vision.

Listen to a sonic collage of Kalimba Sound System.

Kimani Lumsden was one of our first customers, purchasing his first Alto in 2005 (only months after Kalimba Magic was born). He is an elementary school music teacher and percussionist, originally from Kingston Jamaica, currently living and working in Boston, MA. He studied piano, drumming and Steel Pans as a child in Jamaica, and has been studying the percussion traditions of West Africa for the past 10 years. Eric Freeman is a musician, photographer, and recording engineer living in Boston and working at the Massachusetts College of Art. He has been studying percussion and producing various styles of music for the last 6 years. Together, they have created a great new CD, Kalimba Sound System. This music is sort of like Brian Eno meets West African drumming on kalimba. I find this music to be very cool.

Kimani: As a percussionist in the different bands I've played in, I never really had much say in the melodic aspect of the music. I felt as if I had a lot to offer melodically but did not play an instrument that would allow me to combine the rhythmic and the melodic. I was also listening to a lot of West African musical arrangements and was drawn to the role played by the balafon, kora and the like.

I saw a Kalimba (Hokema, pentatonic) while killing some time in a music store near La Place Pigale in Paris in the summer of - I think it was - 2004, and bought it for 80 francs.

For a long time, the Kalimba served as a percussion instrument that I could play and enjoy late at night when it was too late to play djembe or dundun. I discovered that not only could I practice djembe and dundun hand patterns on the Kalimba, but I could also create the type of complex percussive melodies that I was listening to all the time.

Now I am listening more to guitar, kora, harp, and mallet percussion instruments for models. That is helping me a lot.

KM: I agree, the kalimba is a very flexible instrument, and it can fill the roles of guitar, harp, kora, marimba, or drum.

Eric: About 2 years ago, Kimani handed me one of his kalimbas to play rhythms on when it was too late to practice drumming. I was hooked immediately and began to use them in production, mixing them with other loop-based music that had elements of trip-hop and trance. Over time we accumulated a variety of nice songs and then it was just a matter of putting them all together. Kalimba Sound System is a name my friend Toshi Hoo came up with on our travels in the Pacific Northwest after listening to the tracks.

KM: So, is that you singing, Kimani? Do you write the songs?

Kimani: It is me singing and speaking on the tracks, but there is no "ringleader." Each of us has different things that we bring to the music. In fact, I remember that recently in a conversation with Eric, I could not remember whose idea a certain bass hit that I really liked was...he did not remember either.

Eric is, however, solely responsible for the production aspects of all the pieces, and I play Kalimba on the tracks where I am also doing the vocals.

KM: [aside to KM audience] I must add that the production is masterful—lie down and listen to this music in headphones!

KM: What different kalimbas do you have between you?

Kimani: I have two altos (one flatboard and the other with echo-chamber). I've found that the drier sound of the flatboard alto works well as a solo instrument. I also have a treble. Although I really like the sound, I have gotten more accustomed to the larger wider-spaced tines on the altos.

Eric: I have a Hugh Tracey Pentatonic that I use in different tunings, an Andrew Masters Waffer Bass, and a Schlagwerk Marimbula.

KM: Note that these two bass kalimbas are featured in the article below.

KM: Your CD has some very rich bass lines. Which songs use the Andrew Masters Bass, and which use the Schlagwerk Marimula?

Eric: Desert Song, Kalimba Guinee Fare, and Diambadong Extract have the Andrew Masters Bass on them. Big Beats Marimbula, Diamadong Extract and Water for Roots have the Marimbula. The bass on Old Time People is a synth and Do no evil has a stand up bass. The rest of the bass usually comes from Djun Djun and frame drum.

KM: Loop-based and techno-oriented music can be created in so many ways. Part of the creativity is in the masterful mixing and production, part of the creativity is in the seeds of the initial performance. Please share your view of how the creativity works between the two of you.

Eric: Overall, it's a fairly organic process. Each of us would bring some kind of groove or melody and then layer upon that. The songs would work themselves out by this process. For me, many of the songs started with drumming and then I would play a groove or counter rhythm on kalimba, building up layers, letting the song structure form out of that.

The production part comes from working with audio in a variety of styles for many years. I produce Trip-Hop dance music in two other musical projects and have a background in Audio/Video installations. I also do music for short films, DVD menus, and internet videos.

KM: What is the music like when you two just get together and play two kalimbas acoustically?

Eric: Lately, we have been practicing in a "jam" based practice. We work on melody lines and chord changes while integrating structural rhythmic elements we both know from drumming. I feel like this is definitely the seed for new songs. It's amazing how many ways you can play a few notes.

Kimani: I agree with everything that Eric said. Only I would stress the fact that - and this truth continues to surprise me every time I am reminded of it - LESS is always more. Particularly with the pentatonic where all the notes are relatively pleasing to the ear when sounded together, I tend to get lulled into a false sense of infinite melodic security. In order to explore the various possibilities of the pentatonic scale (minor vs. major melodies/chords, for example), I've found it is important to start with a simple, core melodic riff and make sure that additional melodies/harmonies/improvisation complement this initial motif. If not everything ends up tasting like the same - albeit tasty - pentatonic soup.

Yesterday Eric and I played acoustically with a friend and I discovered that THREE really is company. Almost all the rhythmic traditions that I am familiar with have three drums (high, middle, low) constructing the core melody around which everything else revolves. One plays a repeating, time-keeping pattern, while the other two complete the basic rhythm of the dance. These last two will then play off each other and communicate with each other, creating the variations that make the music dynamic and exciting for dancers.

Eric & Kimanis Studio
Eric's studio in Somerville, MA. Note the Schlagwerk marimbula and the Andrew Masters bass. Click photo for enlargement.

Kalimba Sound System
You can purchase Eric Freeman and Kimani Lumsden's new CD, Kalimba Sound System from the Kalimba Magic Shop.

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Christian Carver, Director of AMI:
On Making Instruments

Christian Carver
Christian Carver with Hugh Tracey
Alto Kalimba and an Mbira he made.

Hugh Tracey founded African Musical Instruments in 1955. Heather Tracey, his daughter-in-law, and Andrew Tracey's wife, carried the torch after Dr. Tracey's death in 1977. And Christian Carver has been running AMI since 1998. We interviewed Christian Carver back in 2006. I have to say that while Hugh Tracey kalimbas have been excellent instruments from day one, they have been getting better. Here is part of the reason.

How Do I Approach Instrument Making?

As a musician, I know that an instrument is more than a machine, a collection of parts, a possession or a toy. Musicians are communicators, and the way that they communicate is very often through an instrument. Thus, instruments are imbued with the power to convey powerful messages, to stir strong emotions, to move people both spiritually and physically.

For this reason I approach the making of instruments with reverence. I want to give the musician the best tool for the job, so that his or her communication is unrestricted. I want the best use to be made of the materials, the assembly to be as precise as possible, the instrument to be as durable and as beautiful as possible—but, ultimately, for it to sound as good as it possibly can.

I, therefore, have a level of engagement with my work that might be considered to exceed that required for a regular job. I am very present at each stage, constantly aware of the consequences of mistakes or shoddy workmanship.

I also take pride in the fact that I can play most of the instruments that we make and can convey some of what it is possible to do with them. I think that my involvement in the final quality control of instrument production is important, keeping me in touch with how close the products are to what I want for the customers.

- Christian Carver, AMI, South Africa

And I also take pride in the fact that I play all the instruments Kalimba Magic sells (though I'll have to check back with you in a few weeks concerning the chromatic kalimba, which I haven't had that much success with yet!). We perform an exacting setup of the instruments before we ship so that they meet THIS musician's standards. We do a final tuning check, a final alignment of the tines, and a check that all tines sing sweetly. Kalimba Magic is proud to be the final link between the high integrity of African Musical Instruments, and you the musician. Thank you, both you of AMI and you of the community of musicians who are discovering the kalimba, for this opportunity to serve you.

- Mark Holdaway

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The Great Marimbula Playoff

Reviews of the Cloud Nine, Schlagwerk, JBH,
Mountain Melody and Andrew Masters Bass Kalimbas

JBH Cloud Nine Schlagwerk

I know there are some poor bass kalimbas out there - like the first one I bought on eBay - hey, my fault for thinking I could get something real for $60. Live and learn. But there are also some very good bass kalimbas too. I have seen some rather old original marimbulas from Jamaica that were pretty darn good. The marimbula is one of the instruments the kalimba evolved to when the slave trade brought the kalimba to the Carribean. It was a large resonator box and a few metal tines made of barrel strapping, and the early calypso bands used these instead of the upright bass. While the marimbula quickly dissapeared from recorded Calypso music to be replaced by the more flexible bass, I've communicated with two people from Jamaica who both vouch for the marimbula as being a common thing in Jamaica, 50 years ago and 20 years ago.

The marimbula is sort of retro, but it has definitely come back en vogue. As the Alto or Treble kalimbas have a high range, adding a bass kalimba to the mix can really transform the music. And marimulas have been used effectively in all sorts of music, from big band to bluegrass. There are now several good manufacturers of marimbulas. We at Kalimba Magic have in our hands five different models of marimbulas or baritone-range kalimbas, and on Thursday, May 22, 2008, Mark Holdaway, Glen Davis, Geo Mellville, and Deb Holdaway (i.e., the Kalimba Club) gathered for The Great Marimbula Playoff to sort out which instrument was the best. By the way, Kalimba Magic does not sell any of these marimbulas or bass kalimbas, so you'll have to find them elsewhere. And don't ask me the proper pronunciation for marimbula, or sansula for that matter - I speak my own dialect.


Marimbula Ranges
If you can't read the words, click on the image
to see the PDF, which lets you zoom in.




The Cloud Nine Marimbula

Cloud Nine
The Cloud Nine Marimbula

Listen to the Cloud Nine Marimbula. Note that all marimbula recordings are made with the same microphone distance and settings, so comparisons of relative volume are valid.


The Cloud Nine Marimbula is made in Ohio. It goes down to the C below the guitar's low E string. It only has one octave and has long wooden tines that are arranged in the "circle of 5ths" pattern. This 9-note model costs $425. There are two other Cloud Nine models, with 7 notes and 12 notes. The 9-note has modest key flexibility - it has all the notes in C plus F# and Bb, but you can play the I-IV-V notes in 6 different keys. In fact, the I-IV-V notes for any key are always adjacent to each other, a benefit of the "circle of 5ths" layout.

Pros: The Cloud Nine has a sound very much like a standup string bass. It is loud enough to stand up to a few acoustic guitars playing at full volume. The note arrangement not only makes playing bass lines easy, it also permits a lot of key flexibility without retuning. The notes are named in printed letters on the bridge, which is very handy for beginners, but not so handy if you ever change to a different tuning. It is easy to retune, and holds its tune pretty well (unless the humidity changes). And it just plain looks cool. Cloud Nine has made enough of these that they do a really fine job on the construction and finish. Because of the "circle of 5ths" arrangement, tines alternate between long and short, which permits you to get fingers from both hands on one of the long tines, which permits you to "roll" a note (as in drum roll).

Cons: This is the most expensive marimbula we reviewed. It is bulky and hard to get a handle on. Some players complained about feeling it in their fingers, wrists, and arms when they played. Every monsoon season (July and August in Arizona), the wooden tines soak up extra moisture and go flat by about a half step, so I retune. The notes do not sustain for very long. It covers only one octave. In the past, the low C was a "thud", but now the C sounds clearly - perhaps I am holding the instrument differently.

Quotes:



The JBH Marimbula

The JBH Marimbula
The JBH Marimbula.

Listen to the JBH Marimbula. Note that all marimbula recordings are made with the same microphone distance and settings, so comparisons of relative volume are valid.

The JBH Marimbula is made by Josh Humphries in Oregon and costs about $230. This is a new arrival on the marimbula scene. Josh has at least four different instrument designs: this model has notes layed out like a Hugh Tracey Alto kalimba - two diatonic octaves and 15 notes, but in the key of C; also there is a linear design (think of the white notes of a piano, increasing in pitch from left to right); an ergonomic circular design in which the notes are mounted on independent bridges around a circular sound hole; and a circle of fifths design (like the Cloud Nine). I don't know the prices of the other models, but at $230, this marimbula is a ganga. I am very pleased to see this new marimbula maker putting his marimbulas out into the world.

This instrument is best played with the fingertips, but I don't like the sound it makes with my fingernails - the tines are soft enough that you can play with your finger flesh. It has a very rich sound, and this note layout results in very melodic bass lines.

Pros: The tines are very smooth and soft, pleasing to the fingers. This is the only large marimbula that I can play with my thumbs too. Easy to retune, but it is also possible to knock it out of tune. It is very melodic. You can bang on its tines with little steel drum mallets and it sound great. As it is laid out like the Hugh Tracey Alto kalimba, you can transfer everything you know from that to this. Of all the bass kalimbas, this is the one that I feel best supports singing. I also feel this one has the most possibilities for playing complex music. The wood is nice and is nicely finished - the four sides are made of two different types of wood of slightly different color, and the front and back are made of birch plywood.

Cons: Acoustically, this instrument is on the quiet side - it doesn't stand up to an acoustic guitar strummed loudly, but it is loud enough to play with a kalimba or an acoustic guitar played finger style. The tone is a bit muddy - I think this is just adjacent tines vibrating sympathetically with the tine that was played, an effect that basically makes a triad any time you play one note - an altogether pleasing effect on the Alto or Treble, tolerable in the bass range. The JBH model with independent bridges for the different tines would not have this problem. Even though the instrument is laid out like the Hugh Tracey Alto kalimba, the color scheme confuses me. On the Hugh Tracey, one out of every three tines is painted red or blue to help you keep your place on the instrument. This marimbula follows the same convention, but there isn't enough contrast between the black (unpainted) and the green (painted) and, also, my mind reverses the roles and thinks the black tines are the painted ones, until I see two of them next to each other. While jamming on this the other day, I got a feel for how this instrument is to be played: with your eyes closed, or looking at the other musicians, in either case the paint pattern isn't an issue.

Quotes:

JBH Marimbula



The Schlagwerk Marimbula

Achlagwerk Marimbula
The Schlagwerk Marimbula

Listen to the Schlagwerk Marimbula. Note that all marimbula recordings are made with the same microphone distance and settings, so comparisons of relative volume are valid.

The Schlagwerk Marimbula is made in Germany and costs about $400. This kalimba is roughly laid out like a Hugh Tracey, with low notes in the middle. When we got it, it was tuned to a pentatonic scale - probably not the most useful for a bass. Experiment with tunings.

Pros: You can sit on this one while you play (the traditional Jamaican way) - this one even has little rubber feet. The sustain is very good. Two sound holes let you do some "wah" effects. The 8 metal tines are arranged so that playing on both sides is possible (i.e., 16 notes). This instrument is the loudest, and it can play with acsoutic guitars. The bass sound has a nice punch. The wood finish is excellent. The sound holes have little tubes in them that seem to make them a sturdier point to lift the instrument by. This is the sturdiest of the marimbulas - I just used this one with a group of five blind developmentally delayed kids, and I have to say that I had no fears. Also, as the bass is so strong and lasts so long, this could be a good instrument to use with deaf people.

Cons: When I play a note on this one, the whole thing resonates, which seems to create a lot of mud to my ears. While it is possible to play 16 notes (i.e., both front and back of each of the 8 tines), the two sides of the tines cannot be independently tuned. I intend to experiment with this, though. One side could be tuned by sliding (changing the length of the "exposed" tine) while the other side is fine-tuned by adding weight to the tines (a magnet, bees wax, or fishing weights are on my list of things to try), or by filing part of the tine to weaken the spring. Currently, the untuned side of the tines are mostly out of tune with the main row of tines, and you get some weird beating effects (which could be seen as a pro). In fact, when you pluck one tine, you can see other ends of tines vibrating, and you can SEE the beats in the different vibrations as they interfere destructively and constructively - i.e., physics in action. A simple solution to the odd resonance from the back end of the tines is to take a washcloth, roll it up, and slide it under the back tines to deaden them. The upper notes of this instrument are very weak, and a lot of the energy goes into exciting other resonances in the marimbula, and the higher notes don't last so long. I think this is a potentially great instrument that just hasn't yet been perfected.

Quotes: "These tines are nicely articulated, bent up - I feel like I'm typing - I got a real nice position. And the sound holes are out of the way of your hands."



The Andrew Masters Bass Sanza

Andrew Masters Bass
The Andrew Masters Bass Sanza

Listen to the Andrew Masters Bass. Note that all marimbula recordings are made with the same microphone distance and settings, so comparisons of relative volume are valid.

The Andrew Masters Bass Sanza is made by Andrew Masters in France and costs about $250. Andrew is a recycled materials artist, and the body of this bass kalimba is made from the bottom of a red petrol container. Unlike the Schlagwerk, the Cloud Nine, and the JBH, this one is a hand held instrument. It is more of a baritone than a bass (see the range plot above). When it came to me, it was a 15 note instrument, but I found that the lowest note was lower than the resonance of the body, and the highest notes didn't sound very good either - so I removed four tines, and I like it a lot better as an 11-note instrument. I find that if you strike the tine downward, you get the fundamental note, but you get a note almost 2 octaves above if you strike the tine sideways. Actually, the higher frequency vibration is a major 7th almost 2 octaves above the fundamental, which is an interesting sound.

Pros: The Andrew Masters Bass has a nice resonant tone, and some authentic buzz (I took my buzzers off, but there is still some buzz). This instrument is played with thumbs, so it is most like a standard Alto or Treble kalimba - just shifted down in pitch.

Cons: I have always had a hard time tuning this kalimba, and I just figured out why: if you pluck the tine straight down, you get one note, but if you pluck the tine sideways, you get another note which is a little less than an octave above the lower note. The tines are wider than they are thick, so it is a stiffer spring when doing the transverse (i.e., side to side) vibration, which makes the pitch much higher. Actually, the two notes are about a 7th or a flat 7th apart, which sounds bad to my ears.

Just yesterday I realized that it is actually simple to fix the tines so the upper and lower vibrational frequencies differ by a perfect octave. By filing off part of the thickness of the tine close to the bridge, I can make the up-and-down spring weaker, and hence the lower frequency vibration vibrates at an even lower note, but the upper note is unchanged. As I file off part of the tine's thickness, I keep retuning (I don't actually want the lower note lower - I want the upper note higher - so I have to keep pushing the tine in a bit as I go to compensate for the thinner tine). It took me about 5 minutes for each tine.

So, this is a con that, through a little ingenuity and hard work, I was able to turn into a pro - this is the only kalimba I own with "tuned overtones". The transverse vibration is actually not an overtone (the first overtone is more than 2.5 octaves higher than the fundamental), but it fills the role of an overtone.

Another con: the back end of the tines hang out a long way, and some of these tines end up being very close to the upper notes on the playing part of the kalimba, and this situation results in some odd effects (hence the ear plug deadening the back tine in the photo shown above).

Quotes:




The Mountain Melody Thumb Drum

Mountain Melody Thumb Drum
The Mountain Melody Thumb Drum


The Large Mountain Melody thumb drum deserves a mention here. One of the people at the playoff owns this one, but they forgot to bring it, so this is all from memory. It is an 8-note, one octave instrument in the key of C, and comes in a small size and a larger size. I was not impressed with the small version (sometimes it is tuned too low, and the small coconut or gourd resonator is not large enough to amplify the fundamental, so you hear the first overtone as clearly as the fundamental, which is an anharmonic sound), but the large gourd version is actually a very nice baritone instrument. It fills the range nicely between the Cloud Nine's highest note and the Hugh Tracey Treble's lowest note. (Then again, the JBH exactly covers the combined range of the Cloud Nine and the Mountain Melody.)

Pros: Again, this is a hand-held, thumb-played instrument. This is the least expensive instrument on the list (about $35). The sound is decent.

Cons: This instrument does not go down to any really low range notes. Real kalimba players who have played the smaller Mountain Melody instruments may look down their noses that you actually play one of these.

Quotes: "I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this inexpensive kalimba - especially since I had all but discounted it as junk based on my experience with its smaller brother kalimba."


When we were done analyzing these different instruments, we all sat down to make some nice music. I played guitar, Geo took up the Cloud Nine, Glen played the Andrew Masters Bass, and Deb played a C-tuned Alto-style Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba (if you want to know more about that one, ask me - I think it is a great instrument, and this jam prooved it). Geo also plays guitar, so he could read the chord changes off of my fingers and immediately apply that to the Cloud Nine because of the note labels on the bridge. As the Cloud Nine sits in the lower octave, that left room for Glen to play on the Andrew Masters Bass (the Mountain Melody Thumb Drum would have worked in this application as well, but Glen really likes the Masters instruments). And then the Treble kalimba played by Deb was sailing over the top of the rich and percussive ensemble. It was one of those moments, a beloved extended blossom in time, where everything just worked perfectly. Ah, I could use a few more of those! But a large factor here was that the three kalimbas had mutually exclussive ranges, and each instrument fulfilled a different role in the structure of the improvised jam.

Glen went home with the JBH (he is in love with it), I now have the Schlagwerk (tuning both sides is a challenge I can't walk away from), and the Cloud Nine is still hanging out in my house waiting to THUMP THUMP again. While I've always had issues with the Masters Bass, it is out on my table getting its two vibrational modes aligned to octaves instead of 7ths.

By the way, Eric Freeman and Kimani Lumsden use both the Schlagwerk and the Andrew Masters Bass on their CD Kalimba Sound System. I used the Cloud Nine on four or five tracks of Between the Dark and the Light. I plan on using the JBH Marimbula on future recordings.

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Kalimba Community

Kalimbas on Tiles

Kalimba Classifieds

If you have an announcement you'd like to go out to the kalimba community, fire away. We now have over 2000 people on our mailing list - typically half of them open the email, I don't know how many actually read down to here. Anyway, it doesn't cost you anything, so why not?

For sale: one slightly used Schlagwerk Marimbula (bass kalimba), $300 OBO + shipping from MA. Contact Eric Freeman at efreeman45@gmail.com.

Here's an off-the-wall idea: Deb just bought some earings that just happen to look like kalimbas. Are there any people out there making kalimba jewelry? If so, would you be interested in selling your wares on Kalimba Magic? (Jimmey, what about those thumb rings?) If this sounds like you, contact us.

New Kalimba Players to Know About

Steve Sandberg is a very good musician and composer who sometimes uses kalimba in his compositions. His first song in the playlist on his MySpace page has kalimba.

Sansula in Peace Work

About a year ago, in the space of a month I got four or five emails from people who were using the Sansula to work with young children. One woman wrote that her very energetic 3 year old had a 3 hour bed time ritual - it just took him that long to unwind - but mom made up a little story and a song with the Sansula, and found that she could get her son to sleep in about 15 minutes. (Wow! Just a few nights of that is probably worth the price of the Sansula alone.) And other people wrote to tell me how the Sansula seemed to stimulate and delight their infant, holding their attention and wonder for minutes on end.

Now, I've gotten two messages about the Sansula from a different population: prison psychologists. First, I got a call from the father of a prison psychologist who bought a Sansula for his son because he was concerned that his son was taking home the stress from his job, and that the Sansula could help him. And then only a week later, I got this email:

Hi, I thought you may be interested in this story. I bought a Sansula from your shop and I just love it. I played it to a friend, who is a psychologist for the San Quentin prison in CA. He was amazed by the calming qualities of the sound. He mentioned to me that he has a music program to work with violent inmates and he is going to use this instrument to help them to deal with their inner emotions.
Best Regards,
Chris

What can I say? The Sansula is a wonderful and healing instrument, it works for babies, prison psychologists, violent inmates, and for me too! Hmmm, I wonder which category I fall into?

WAVE1: 7pm on June 18

A friend of mine, Victor Shamas, in the psychology department at the UofA in Tucson AZ, is putting on a world-wide event called WAVE1. At 7pm June 18, there will be a wave of positive energy, chant, and joy making its way around the globe through the time zones.

Victor writes:

You can send a wave of love and joy around the world. Here's how:

June 18, 2008, is an auspicious date for WAVE1. Besides being full moon and World Invocation Day, it also marks the Buddhist festival of Saka Dawa, during which the spiritual benefit of our virtuous actions is multiplied by a factor of 100 million. We can spread that benefit to everyone we love by including them in this powerful event.

To learn more about WAVE1, please visit their website: http://www.wave1.org.

Kalimba Video

I must say that the videos this month are really great. Some old friends, and a lot of new finds, but many of these are real gems. Enjoy!

And a tip: if you like someone's video, click on their station and you can see everything that user has uploaded to YouTube.


Kalimba Logo

Here is a thought I leave you with:

Experts on learning have come up with a number. It typically takes people about 10,000 hours of doing something in order to get really, really good at doing it. Let's see - if you are going to a four year college studying physics, that would be working about 7 hours a day on physics, every day. That seems about right. Or, if you have been playing kalimba for 10 years and you play 3 hours a day, that is about 10,000 hours. OR, if you want to become a kalimba master in only a year, that only requires playing.... 27 hours a day. Well, there are some things that just can't be rushed.
Hey, best of luck on that!
-Mark

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