10 Traditional African Pieces for Karimba

Karimba Collection

The Karimba is probably the most ancient of all African thumb pianos. People probably played an instrument very similar to this over 1000 years ago. And the music they played could well be related to some of the music we present here.

Most of this music comes to us through Jege Tapera, a master of the karimba or mbira nyunga nyunga as he called it. Jege Tapera came to teach traditional African music at the Kwanongoma Music College in 1960. One of his students was Dumisani, who carried this music to the west coast of America in the early 1970s. Andrew Tracey and Paul F. Berliner also studied Jege Tapera's music, and their tablature transcriptions form the basis of this collection.

10 Traditional African Pieces for Karimba includes songs which Andrew Tracey collected from Ziare, Zambia, and Mozambique, but the strongest pieces in this collection are the songs from Zimbabwe. They have a certain perfection and sophistication. Listening to these pieces on KTabS - and playing them - one feels a sense of grandeur from this music. It is truly inspiring to discover such wonderful music that is many hundreds of years old, if not over a thousand years old. This music honors unknown African geniuses from the distant past. When this music was written, Europeans were doing monastic chants.

I spent over three years looking at the numerical tablature from Tracey, and I did learn one song, but not very well. But I have now cast all ten songs into a more vibrant form or tablature that people around the world can easily use.

Karimba Tablature
Kalimba tablature for the
first phrase of Bunga Utete.

The gray lines represent the upper row of tines, and the white ones represent the lower row of tines. You read from the bottom to the top. (Many traditional karimba tunes, this one included, start with all lower row tines, as this is the oldest part of the instrument.) If you were running KTabS, you would click the "Play" icon, and the program would highlight each note as you are supposed to play it, sounding that note through your computer's speakers in time, with the music continually scrolling down the screen.

If you own the KTabS program, you will be able to play these downloaded KTabS files on your computer. If you have never heard of KTabS before, here is an MP3 of a KTabS demo. To learn more, check out our FAQs section on KTabS.

Click here for PDF of Bunga Utete.

Click here for KTabS file for Bunga Utete.

After I had cast these ten traditional African karimba tunes into KTabS, I could see and hear how the songs went, and I started learning them quickly. My favorite thing is to play along with KTabS until I internalize the song and have the strength to play it on my own. I cannot say enough good things about KTabS. KTabS was developed by Randy and Sharon Eaton; you can purchase it from the KTabS website.

10 Traditional African Pieces for Karimba is available only via download from the Kalimba Magic Shop.

Read release notes for 10 Traditional African Pieces for Karimba.