The What-do-you-feel Contest
Winners! Plus, Next Contest Info

Lisa Brennan
Lisa Brennan hatches a melody.

We asked you: how do you feel when you play the kalimba? I would say that well over half the kalimbas I pack up are sent to males, but I guess it's true what they say about guys not liking to talk about their feelings, because we didn't have any guys out there writing to me about how they feel when they are playing kalimba.

We received some wonderful words from women, telling of how the kalimba has touched them, moved them, and lifted them. Thank you, sisters!

We found it very difficult to not award all of the good submissions we received, but our judges finally decided on three lucky winners who will receive $50 in Kalimba Magic store credit. You can read these winning submissions below.

Next Contest: I am hoping to see some cool video for the next contest - if you can't tell me how you feel when you play kalimba, maybe you can show me how you feel. See below for the details.

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The Winning Submissions

Deep gray clouds match my mood. I shrug off my work jacket, kick off my shoes, exchange slacks for frayed blue jeans. Grab a kalimba, head barefoot for the back deck, lean against the house under the eaves. Start some random plunking, dissonant and dark. The universe responds with a little growl of thunder, "Amen, sister." Encouraged, I lighten a bit, improvising a bright little shower of notes. Real raindrops dot the gray deck boards. I find my groove about the same time as the storm: not genius, not a faithful recreation of an ethnomusicologist's field notes. It's my song of the moment - simple, lilting, in a major key, accompanied by the natural buzz of the straight-down rain. We play our duet for a while, the storm and I, before it gathers all its rain up and drifts along to its next gig, two towns over. And I go inside, smiling for the first time since morning.

—Mindy Cotner


There are certain things that still strike me about it as intensely as they did when I first picked it up. The soothing tones of the keys bring back happy memories of sitting in my room as a child and playing a music box with a spinning ballerina on top. I had opened the box to see how it works and watched the tiny gears turn while the pegs plucked the miniature keys. But even discovering the mystery of what produced the sound didn't spoil the magic of the music. Playing the kalimba reminds me of this, as the sense of wonder is only enhanced by in some way being a part of it.

The more I've played, the more it feels like I'm developing a connection to the kalimba that flows both ways. It seems to guide the way with gentle encouragement while hinting at a whole world yet to be explored and as long as I keep an open mind, I can keep following the music. I feel a calmness that I've never felt before, and the healing and nurturing that one usually finds in a friend. The growing bond I have with it makes it feel more like a companion than an instrument, and the ability to carry it with me promises a sense of belonging anywhere I go.

—Lisa Brennan


I never realized there could come a time when everything I worked for could be pulled out from under me. It seemed I had invested every hour and ounce of my energy for over two decades to create a better life my parents had hoped one of their children might one day achieve.

Strange how people one trusts most in life can disappear when finances seem bleak or one is not at their best. I never realized how quickly a couple of accidents, an illness, a sick pet (I have no children), an accumulation of bills, the death of a loved one, issues at work (and more) could, in the blink of an eye, devastate my life to the point I lost touch and trust in humanity and myself.

My self-esteem seemed to rip at my very soul. I felt God, my family and my friends had abandoned me at a time I needed them most. It seemed I forgot how to feel, how to cry, how to care for anything and almost anyone. Had it not been for my two beautiful, patient, loving, (needy at times) dogs, I don't think there would have been an ounce of a being left within me.

I was holding on to one ray of light, praying it wouldn't be doused by the mire encircling my very life. I was clinging to this tiny ray for over a year, maybe close to two. By now, my worst fears were losing the two dogs that kept me clinging to my sanity. My ego, my stubborn pride and something deep inside said I could beat any if the odds laid out before me, but I still felt I was hanging on the very edge. I worked so hard to grasp some thread and worked out every probability that I was told did not exist.

I can't even tell you how my life started changing in the twinkle of an eye. Two beautiful people, I have not met, came into my life. Two beautiful people playing the same heavenly sound. I'm not sure which one I stumble across first. Somehow I found myself searching for Kalimbas. Did someone mention it or did I read about it? I'm not sure if it was from an auction where I found the most beautiful handmade Kalimba (Gary Upton - no longer made) sold by some unknown. But I lost that auction. So I searched high and low for a similar instrument and I found your site, Mark. Kalimbas play heavenly even for those who have absolutely no musical talent.

You offered so much music for a beginner with no musical ear. I listened to your CD's at work. And I played that Hugh Tracy Kalimba I received from you early into the morning hours after work. And yes, I finally cried too. And I felt. And I knew everything I had worked for was not true...to me and what God wanted for me. There was the light and finally it grew. And as I am writing this, again I am crying too. It feels so good to feel and live for me, for God, NOT for everyone else and what they expect of me.

I believe it is because you love what you do, that people like me feel God's gifts through you. I see it in each emotional note you share from your followers and friends.

It's amazing the doors that suddenly open, when one can regain self-esteem and self-identity. Can I play the Kalimba? Not really, but I believe the beautiful sounds it makes will hold me true. Do I still have work to do?--Yes, relationships to mend too. I really do love my job, and I save lives everyday too, but I don't work for the money (of course that's not true). I work for the love and the passion I have for what I do. I'm learning to slow down.

—Catherine Saunders

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Next Contest: Show us what you feel in a video

OK, we are stretching out the due date to JANUARY 1, 2011: Express how playing kalimba makes you feel in a YouTube video. Write a song, play kalimba, get creative. Send us a link to the video and a few sentences describing who you are. As with part 1 of this contest, there may be 3 winners and the winning submissions will share $150 in Kalimba Magic store credit. (We'll decide if there are one, two, or three winners when we read the submissions.)

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