Feb. 19, 2011

Vol. 6, Num. 2

Kalimba Magic NEWS

Student Karimba News
The New Hugh Tracey 9-Note and the Kankobela

Kalimba Magic now offers yet another Student Karimba for use with the new Student Karimba book! This one is made by the Africans at AMI in Grahamstown, South Africa.

How is the Hugh Tracey 9-Note Student Karimba different from the other Student Karimbas we offer? Like the Goshen, it is a 9-Note instrument (one note is repeated). It has the traditional shape of the karimba, which is also the shape of the AMI trademark. It comes with buzzers. It is tuned an octave higher than the Catania and Goshen instruments.

The 10-Note Kankobela: A Dying Traditional Instrument

The Hugh Tracey Student Karimba can also be recast into the 10-note Kankobela. The Kankobela was the instrument documented by A.M. Jones in his 1950 article The Kalimba of the Lala Tribe, Northern Rhodesia.

Kankobela tuning
10-note kankobela tuning

Actually, Jones knew the instrument from the 1930s as an 8-note instrument, but by the 1950s the Lala tribe had added two notes to the instrument. The older 8-note version of the Kankobela was missing the note we consider the 4th of the scale, but the new 10-note version included the 4th, permitting the playing of new songs from outside the Lala culture. However, the two songs that Jones notated in his paper, which are included in the Student Karimba Book, do not use these two additional tines.

student karimba book
The new Student
Karimba book:
pages w/CD, $20.

The added notes are the high 4th and 5th on the right side. The 4th is next to the 6th (almost an octave lower than the 4th) and the 5th is next to the original 5th (which is an octave lower than the new note).

It is possible for me to modify the 9-Note Hugh Tracey Student Karimba into a 10-Note Kankobela. Contact me if you are interested!

Western kalimba fans are familiar with the concept of a kalimba glued onto a gourd for a resonating chamber - as in the Catania and Goshen kalimbas. Mbira players are familiar with the concept of playing the instrument inside a much larger gourd to amplify the sound. But this traditional instrument design may be new to you. The kalimba is not attached to the gourd, but is held in contact with the gourd or right above the gourd. If the kalimba is moved relative to the gourd, up or down, a "wah wah" effect results.

African kankobela (Photo: Marcel van Dijk)

Marcel van Dijk has written a paper for the Journal of African Music (the publication that Hugh Tracey started when he founded the International Library of African Music - ILAM in 1954) on the Kankobela. His ideas: the two extra notes that were added to extend the range of songs available to the Kankobela, as influenced by the introduction of a new type of kalimba from a neighboring cultural group. Nhe Ndandi with 13 tines had a different tuning plan. So the 10-tine kankobela was an extension of the 8-tined instrument that can play some of the Ndandi music. However, much of the music that is played on the kankobela only uses the original 8-tines, but the extra notes are still being made on the instruments.

It is important to note that the culture of the Kankobela is dying out. The children of kankobela players are not picking up the instrument, and the number of kankobela players is decreasing.

There is an interesting CD that features traditional kankobela music put out by Sharp Wood Productions (Michael Baird in the Netherlands). Baird relates that the kankobela is a personal instrument and the compositions played on it are personal compositions. This is in marked contrast to the music of the karimba and mbira which has relatively rigid structure with many variations that passed from generation to generation.

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