What's the Buzz at Kalimba Magic

Happy Mark
Message from Mark Holdaway
The Gradual Way
We will all get there in the end

"Take the gradual way," I often said to my son Tim, age 3, as we hiked in the arroyos near Socorro, New Mexico. His inclination was to take the most direct path, which often required steep climbing that was actually dangerous for him. I realized I was teaching him a life lesson that he could use for all the days of his life, and my mind leapt 15 or 20 years into the future, and I realized that as my son gradually grew, at some point in that time span, my son would physically pass me, outhike me, outbike me, and perhaps even someday outthink me. In that bittersweet moment I was welcoming a future joy in the blooming of my son's abilities, while recognizing my own inevitable slow physical decline.

Well, Tim is 20, and he just got back from an epic bicycle ride along the coast of Washington and Oregon. Gradually, he made it down the coast, but that gradual was in a whole different world from "the gradual way" I had started him on 17 years ago.

The whole kalimba world is on the gradual path. I have seen a very few people pick up the kalimba and immediately play great music on it, but most of us find that we can play some beautiful things on the kalimba but don't totally get it for quite some time. It does take years to totally internalize the alternating note pattern of the kalimba, and it takes years for most players to get really good.

Isaac Newton was the guy who took decades of slowly revealed physical truths and put them together into a coherent framework that defined the course of physics research for the next century and a half. When asked why he could see what others had not been able to, he replied that if it seemed that he had seen further than others, it was because he was standing on the shoulders of giants. It was true that he was relying on the hard work of others that came before him—Tycho Brahe, Galileo, and others—but Newton was the one who put it all together and totally shaped the world.

While I would like to be Newton, I am not. I am the one who comes before and helps to prepare the way. Yes, I am a giant, but I am the giant on whose shoulders many of the coming generation of kalimba players will stand. Some people who use my books and downloads will not venture too far beyond the bounds of what I have written, but others will use these instructional materials as a beginning, as a starting point which is much higher than what they could have achieved without me—and when they start to fly, who knows where they will go?

That is my dream. While I would like to be the next big kalimba star, at age 47 and unable to travel at this time, that doesn't seem very likely. So I settle for the next thing: that I might inspire and help the next kalimba star. I am planting the seeds for the future great kalimba players, and I fully expect that a whole crop of people will surpass what I am able to do. Yes, it will take years, but when you are committed, the years just go by, and you grow, and before you know it, you are doing great things. And in the kalimba world, you are probably doing great things that are totally new and unlike what has come before, for the wilderness always seems to be close by with the kalimba.

This month, we announce a CD for the 8-Note kalimba. Steve Catania, the maker of Catania Kalimbas, wrote a book for the 8-Note kalimba quite a while ago, with songs like "A Tisket a Tasket," "Oh, Susannah!" and "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore." The book takes a numbers-based approach—you write the number of the note on the kalimba, and the book gives you the numbers to play to make the song. (I finally adopted this method this month when teaching student karimba to 100 kids at Camp Fenster, and it worked great!) The CD I recorded for Steve Catania has all 31 songs from his book. The first time I go through the song, I follow Steve's notation very closely, but I go through each song twice, and the second time through I add harmony, accompaniment, and counterpoint - much more complex stuff that you can't really notate with the numbers-based approach. It is my hope and dream that this CD will serve as an instructional aid to hundreds or thousands of children learning the kalimba, and the second time through these songs will point the way to a richer way of playing. In 10 or 20 years from now, the young adults who learned how to play kalimba from Steve Catania's book and my accompanying CD will ignite the world in a movement of kalimba excitement, in part because they stood on the shoulders of giants.

Kalimba Magic is my business, and a large part of my life. I've been at it for a good four years, and I am in this for the long haul. In my moments of need, I have called out to the kalimba community, and you have come through for me - and I thank you for that. I am looking forward to a long future teaching the world about the magic of the kalimba, so I expect I will be here when, gradually, the next generation of kalimba players poke their heads above mine to shine in their own right.

—Mark Holdaway, July 11, 2009

Alto Kalimba
Learn about the Hugh Tracey
TM Alto in this month's
Kalimba of the Month.

20% Off Sale on TM Alto Kalimbas with or without Pickups

We are currently sold out of box Alto kalimbas with pickups, but check out this month's Kalimba of the Month: the TM Alto, which looks, feels and sounds very different from the box Alto.

Hugh Tracey TM Alto kalimbas are 20% off for the entire month of July, both with and without pickups.

Hopefully, by the time we run out of these, we'll have more box Alto kalimbas with pickups back in stock!


New Kalimba Forum


I confess: I have never been a member of an online forum. I have very recently started a Facebook account, but I am embarrassingly uninvolved with Facebook. Over the last four years, Kalimba Magic has stimulated an online community: hundreds of people visit our website each day, dozens of people email me each day, and some of those messages make it into the newsletter or Tips or Feedback. However, quite a few people have recently asked about a forum, which would allow people to exchange ideas with each other.

This is a bit of a stretch for me, the online forum novice, but I went ahead and asked my Wonderful Webmistress Susan Taunton to set up a forum for Kalimba Magic.

Our new forum is now live at: www.kalimbamagic.com/forum.

So come and sign up and start discussing! I may be "giant" in the kalimba world (see Message from Mark Holdaway above), but there are many giants, and there are a lot of people who know a lot of things that I do not know. It is my hope that this kalimba forum will be a place where novices can come and ask their questions, experts will be able to share their knowledge and ideas, and people will debate and invent. We will all benefit.

Not to mention, you performing kalimba players will be able to post mention of your upcoming kalimba gigs!


Getting KTabS to Run on the Mac

Eli Medvescek has sent us instructions for getting KTabS to run on the Mac:

1. You will need X11. If you have 10.4, install it from installation DVD, or find a version to download online (search google - X11 for 10.4). If you have 10.5 you might already have it. You can search for it and if you have it it will show up as an application somewhere. If you don't have it (for 10.5), get the latest version: http://xquartz.macosforge.org/trac/wiki It should tell you there how to install it if you need to.

2. Download Darwine package at: http://www.kronenberg.org/darwine/ You can probably use either the stable or unstable version. It is pretty easy to install. It is one of those click and drag kind of deals. Be sure to drag Darwine into your applications folder on your Mac, otherwise you may have problems when trying to run the program.

3. Now configure wine. Run winehelper. In the sample programs that came with the Darwine, run winecfg. Pretty much what you have to configure is the drives and the audio. For the drives, you need to make sure that it is set up so that there is a folder that it thinks is the "C drive" in Windows. For audio, you pretty much have to click on test audio and it should make some noise. If it doesn't, then you need to mess around with clicking some options. It shouldn't be hard to get it working.

4. Now you get the KTabS installer. This is a Windows executable (exe) file. Now you can run it just by doubleclicking it. It should then launch winehelper which will run the installer. Tell it to install to what it thinks is your Windows "C drive."

5. Run KTabS. It might have made you a desktop shortcut, which you can click. Otherwise, you will have to navigate to where you installed it.

Thank you so much, Eli! Thanks also to Tim Holdaway, who got the ball rolling. I have had dozens of requests for KTabS on the Mac, and I am glad that we now have a method that seems to work.

Music Therapy

Kalimba Magic at the AMTA Music Therapy Conference

November 11-15 2009, San Diego

Kalimba Magic is very happy to be a vendor at the National Conference of the American Music Therapy Association in San Diego Nov 11-15. But we are even happier to be presenting a one hour session on using the kalimba as a healing instrument. This is our first trip to the National AMTA Meeting. In the past, we have been very successful with the Western Region of the AMTA, and we are looking forward to working with people from all over the nation, as well as to breaking into the other AMTA regional meetings.

The big message of the kalimba session at the AMTA conference is that Kalimba Magic has transformed the kalimba world. Before we started our work four years ago, there were five educational resources for kalimba that I was aware of - Steve Catania had two small books for the 8 and 12 Note kalimbas (circa 2004), Paul Tracey has a tape that coached you on the Treble kalimba (circa 1975), Carol Burt-Beck had a book that notated the two hands independently (like piano music, 1979), and someone else had an instructional CD. Basically, Kalimba Magic has increased the number of kalimba resources available to the world ten-fold. There are hundreds of songs which are notated for the kalimba, we have books, CDs, instructional web pages, Tips of the Day, online lessons and more. The kalimba is no longer a percussion toy. It is a fully formed instrument, like a harp or a guitar, capable of creating wonderful music, capable of accompanying voice, capable of solo playing with melody, harmony, and counterpoint. My vision is that in 20 years, the kalimba will be part of the core competency required of all music therapists.

If you plan on attending the AMTA Meeting, pleae stop by and talk with us at our booth, and come join our kalimba session on November 15. We were hoping to get a 5 hour CMTE slot, but one hour is definitely a foot in the door, enough to show you that you really want more!

African American Spirituals

Coming Soon: Alto African American Spirituals Book

A few months ago, we released the African American Spirituals KTabS download for the Alto kalimba. We have taken those arrangements and put them into a book, which will be coming out next month. The book will come with a CD and will have both "melody only" basic arrangements and advanced arrangements of 21 different African American spirituals for the Alto.

You can preorder your copy of African American Spirtuals for the Alto Kalimba. The first 20 people to order will get the CD "Two Thumbs Up" for free!

The songs that we've included in the book are:

Classical Kalimba

Coming Soon: Classical Alto and Treble Books

Sharon Eaton of KTabS and I arranged 20 classical melodies quite some time ago, but until now they were only available as downloads. Sharon is now formatting printed versions for both Alto and Treble.

This is a great collection to learn from, as the early tunes have very simple melody-only arrangements, while the final tunes are quite advanced. At this time, we do not have a recording to go with the book, so it will be just $16.

You can preorder your copy of Classical Alto or Classical Treble. We'll have them sent out to you before September 1, and we'll include a copy of the CD Two Thumbs Up. That's two for one—while they last!

An Invented Conversation with a Classical Music Enthusiast:

Classical music is complex, with key changes and modulations requiring chromatic notes that just aren't there. How do you play kalimba on those pieces?

It is true that the kalimba is missing the chromatic notes, so we won't be playing any Stravinsky; but there are hundreds of classical passages which sit completely in diatonic harmonies, and there are even more which only deviate from the diatonic scale briefly, and we can usually come up with suitable alternative notes.

But on the kalimba, the notes are arranged differently than in western music. The most emblematic instrument of western music is the piano, where all the notes are laid out in a straight line from bottom to top! The kalimba is so disorganized!

Actually, the kalimba is just differently organized. On traditional African instruments, the low notes are in the middle, and the high notes are placed at either end. Hugh Tracey systematized that note organization in a way that fits perfectly with western music: on the right, starting from the middle, you've got the 1, 3, 5, 7, 9(2), 11(4), 13(6), and 15(8); on the left starting from the middle, you've got 2, 4, 6, 8, 10(3), 12(5), and 14(7). So, in order to make a scale, you do have to go back and forth, right and left. But in order to make a chord, you just strum any three adjacent notes. The kalimba makes a tradeoff, and now some things which are easy on the piano are a bit harder on the kalimba, and some things that were a bit harder on the piano are much easier on the kalimba. Any good composer knows that each instrument has its own unique voice which is integrally related to the instrument's design. On any given instrument, some things are easy and some things are difficult or impossible. The same is true about the kalimba, and it is our job to select pieces and make arrangements that bring out the kalimba's voice in a plain and natural manner.

But playing the kalimba, you are using just two thumbs. To play a piano requires the use of all ten fingers and thumbs. Can you really play anything good using those two stumpy digits?

Yes, as a matter of fact. For one, a trumpet or a flute can only play one note at a time. On the kalimba, we can easily play a melody note with three, four, or five note harmonies with the sweep of a thumb. In fact, the kalimba sounds rather like a harp with its angelic tone and airy melodies and harmonies.

Like a harp?!

Yes, like a harp. In my heaven, all the angels will be playing kalimba.