This month we do something a little unusual and feature an instrument that is not a kalimba. The instrument of the month for September is AMI's G pentatonic amadinda.
The amadinda is a traditional Ugandan pentatonic xylophone that is played by two or three players. Two players sit on opposite sides of the instrument and strike the ends of the bars with wooden beaters. If this sounds odd, check out last month's article that explained about the nodes and antinodes on a xylophone bar.
It is common for each player to play two notes at the same time, the notes separated by an octave. To play two notes separated by an octave, there will be four unplayed bars in between the two played bars. As the instrument maintains the same scale throughout, this rule holds for the entire instrument.
There is good information on the amadinda in the Baganda music article on Wikipedia.
The traditional amadinda music has two main parts, the Okunaga, which starts playing notes equally spaced in time, and the Okwawula, which plays in between the Okunaga part's notes. The two parts are different, but together form an interlocking melody. The notes are labeled 1 through 5, and are played in octaves (the leading 4 actually indicates two 4 notes are played, separated by an octave). In this way, very full music can be created in a fairly simple way.
In the notation below, the "." indicates a rest where the other player plays a note. When the end is reached, jump back to the beginning without skipping a beat.
Okunaga 126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.184.108.40.206. Okwawula .220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124
The traditionally tuned amadinda is made with an equally tempered pentatonic scale, meaning the interval between any two adjacent notes is 240 cents - just a bit over a whole step. The octaves are the only fully consonant intervals - hence the use of the octaves in all amadinda music. With the equally tempered scale, you could shift every note in a song up or sown by one or more bars, and the relative intervals (and hence the sound of the song) would remain the same.
However, the G amadinda is tuned to the western G major pentatonic. On the G amadinda, some intervals are whole steps and some are 1.5 whole steps (ie, a minor 3rd, as in the distance between E and G or between B and D). Hence, shifting up or down on the G amadinda would actually change the sound of the music. On the other hand, you can use all the harmony you like, as the intervals sound great together. AND great with your G tuned kalimba.
Here is the same song that was written above, but notated with the names of the western notes rather than the numbers:
Okunaga D.B.D.B.B.B.D.B.D.D.A.A. Okwawula .E.A.G.E.A.G.E.A.G.E.A.G
Note that the Okwawula part is only three notes long, .E.A.G, which is repeated four times to fill up the 12 beats.
Another very similar song which I like better - the Okwawula part is just three notes long again, but the A has been replaced by the D. The Okunaga part is the same as in the first song, but it has been shifted down by a note:
Okunaga B.A.B.A.A.A.B.A.B.B.G.G. Okwawula .E.D.G.E.D.G.E.D.G.E.D.G
I have written out these songs in KTabS tablature: Okunaga part and Okwawula part. The kalimba tablature is a map of the kalimba, showing you which tines to play and when (using the standard rules of musical notation). Amadinda tablature is very similar - each strip of the tablature represents a different amadinda bar, BUT I have notated the Okunaga part with the low notes on the left and the high notes on the right, while the Okwawula part is notated with the high notes on the left and the low notes on the right - so these two players can sit on opposite sides of the amadinda! You can also download the KTabS Okunaga Template and Okwawula Template so you can write your own amadinda music in KTabS.
If you haven't already made the connection between the Okunaga/Okwawula parts and the Kushaura/Kutsinhira parts in mbira music, you really need to check out this month's KTabS Notebook article on Kushaura/Kutsinhira mbira parts. These different musics from Uganda and Zimbabwe are built the same way, but with different instruments.
By the way, there is a book available for the amadinda from Great Britain. Apparently, it is used quite a bit in schools there.
With the western tuning, the G amadinda is ready to be played with the Hugh Tracey Kalimbas, i.e., the Alto Kalimba, the Treble Kalimba, the Pentatonic Kalimba, or the Karimba in G tuning. The amadinda bars absorb moisture and when the weather is moist these bars gain extra mass and as a consequence go flat. When the weather dries out, they go back in tune. If played with kalimbas, you may need to adjust the tuning of the kalimbas to match the amadindas.
Be sure to catch the September Thursday Tips on the G amadinda!