09 April 2017

Introduction to Karimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This article explains this rich but confusing instrument

Introduction to Karimba

The first thing that is confusing about the karimba is that people assume its name is a misspelling of "kalimba."  When I say "karimba," I am referring to the traditional instrument that Andrew Tracey described as the "original mbira" from 1300 years ago. The name "karimba" can also refer to one of the new tunings we have derived from this ancient instrument.

It certainly can be confusing:  does this instrument have 8 notes, 9 notes, 13, 15, or 17 notes?  Yes to all!  What key is it tuned to?  Great question!  Let's not view these issues as problems, rather let us see them as opportunities.

14 April 2017

Meet our Karimbas - your comparison shopping Go-To page

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Sound recordings for eight different types of karimbas in a wide variety of tunings

Meet our Karimbas - your comparison shopping Go-To page

This is a companion article to the post "Introduction to Karimba" where I explain the history and kinds of karimbas in the world. This information will help you learn more about the karimbas that Kalimba Magic offers.  In this post, I provide sound files for many of our karimba models so you can hear them side-by-side.  I also provide links to the product pages in the Kalimba Magic Shop.  If you are in the market for a karimba this is the go-to place for comparing the different models by sound and also through the detailed information given about them in the Shop pages, where you will find descriptions along with discussion and video of some of the instruments being played.

24 March 2017

Three Modes in Traditional Karimba Music

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Africans and Europeans Both Used This Cool Trick

Three Modes in Traditional Karimba Music

Generally, when you encounter a kalimba, it is usually in a particular key.  The Alto usually comes in G major.  The Bb Treble comes in Bb.  The 17-Note African-tuned karimba comes in A (unless we retune it), and the 15-note karimba (aka mbira nyunga nyunga) comes in F.

One usually plays a G major kalimba in G; but there are other ways.  You can actually pick a different note on the kalimba and make that one be the root note.  You establish a particular note as the root note by emphasizing it as "home base."  You can emphasize a note as "home base" by starting or ending a song on that note, or by playing it more often that the other notes.

If you use an alternative note (not the key note of the kalimba) as the root note, then you are playing in a different "mode" than the one suggested by its original key.  The different modes have different scales, each with its unique melodic flavor.

In a noteworthy twist, traditional karimba music uses different modes in the same manner that western music does.  What makes this remarkable?

01 April 2017

Chiwoniso Maraire

Written by Klara Wojtkowska, Posted in News and Announcements

The Songbird and Spirit Medium of Modern Zimbabwe

Chiwoniso Maraire

Klara Wojtkowska writes about the spiritual mythology of one of her mbira heroes.

Chiwoniso Maraire was in love with her homeland, Zimbabwe, as only one who walks the narrow path between those who belong and those who are foreigners, can be. Born in Olympia, WA, young Chiwoniso and her siblings performed in the Maraire family ensemble. Her father, Dumisani Maraire, was a famous mbira player who trained at the Kwanangoma School. Her mother, as Chiwoniso described, was a marvelous singer. As a teenager she and her family moved back to Zimbabwe where Chiwoniso became involved in the local music scene.

31 March 2017

F-sharp Karimba Instead of a Karimba in F?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Chiwoniso found just where her voice fit, and it was on an F# karimba

F-sharp Karimba Instead of a Karimba in F?

Chiwoniso, the late, gifted Zimbabwean-American musician, played a 15-note karimba. This instrument was originally taught at the historic Kwanangoma School of African Music in Zimbabwe, popularized by her father Dumisani Maraire as the "mbira nyunga nyunga." It was usually tuned to the key of F. But Chiwoniso played her own 15-note in F#, in a not-uncommon musical strategy. 

31 March 2017

My Mbira Journey Started With Karimba

Written by B. Michael Williams, Posted in News and Announcements

My experience with karimba and mbira

My Mbira Journey Started With Karimba

Percussionist, composer, author and educator B. Michael Williams specializes in mbira, frame drums, djembe, and contemporary percussion. His mbira books are a great resource for any student of kalimba. Here are a few selections from Mr. Williams that give us a glimpse at a compelling and unique taste of his thoughts and experience with karimba and mbira.

05 April 2017

The "Clocks" riff from Coldplay, on Karimba and Alto

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Learn to play a kalimba version of the piano ostinato in Coldplay's "Clocks"

The

An ostinato is a motif or phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical voice.  Almost everybody knows the piano ostinato that provides the foundation for Coldplay's compelling song "Clocks," written a decade ago.  Evocative and haunting, this song seemingly brings to life a dream world.  (Click on the link below this post to hear it.)  While I've enjoyed this song since it came out, it never occurred to me to play it on kalimba until recently at a music therapy conference.  One of the attendees started playing "Clocks" on ukelele, and I realized she was playing it in D mixolydian mode, which has the same notes as the key of G major. This is also the same key in which a lot of Hugh Tracey kalimbas are tuned.  I ran and got my Alto kalimba and immediately jumped in. 

Would you like to learn how to play the riff to "Clocks" on the kalimba?  We have tablature for both African karimba and Alto kalimba.

14 April 2017

Andrew Tracey Reviews Our Newest Karimba Book

Written by Andrew Tracey, Posted in News and Announcements

Hugh Tracey's son, Andrew, is "THE" expert on Karimba Music

Andrew Tracey, ethnomusicologist, musician, and now-retired director of ILAM (the International Library of African Music), is a noted authority on karimba and mbira. He did much research and study in the field on these two instruments. Andrew has written several seminal scholarly papers on these instruments giving us much of what we know and understand about them today. A few months back I sent him my new karimba book "About 30 Traditional African Songs for the Hugh Tracey African Karimba" and here is his thoughtful review.

"Congratulations on your work, may it spread the knowledge of one of the best-known African instruments, and may it bring many more musicians to Africa to learn to play it!"

13 January 2017

Six Modes to Expand the Emotional Expressiveness of your Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Each different mode is like a totally different instrument. Don't you want to unlock that power?

Six Modes to Expand the Emotional Expressiveness of your Kalimba

You can totally change the scale your kalimba is playing, not by doing anything hard such as retuning your kalimba, but just by starting and ending on a different note than you usually do.  Emphasizing a different note makes that the root note, and the whole system of whole steps and half steps shifts, and all of a sudden the kalimba is playing as if it were tuned to a totally different scale.

How different can the scales be?   Here are my descriptions of each of the modes: Mode 1: happy.  Mode 2: dark, but jazzy and sophisticated.  Mode 3: dark and middle eastern sounding, exotic.  Mode 4: angelic. Mode 5: Jerry Garcia in 1969.  Mode 6: melancholy and serious.

If you can access these different modes in your playing, you have the power to express these types of feelings in your playing.

28 February 2017

Kalimba Magic Catalog 2017

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The Catalog is available in hard copy or as a PDF Download

Kalimba Magic Catalog 2017

For the first time in seven years, Kalimba Magic has printed a catalog.   Click through to find out what is special about this new catalog and how to get a hard copy or a soft copy catalog of your very own.

14 March 2017

What's New at Kalimba Magic?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

What's New at Kalimba Magic?

It has been many weeks since our last Kalimba Magic newsletter.  I have been working very hard on a number of fronts, and I am very pleased to inform you of some of our recent accomplishments and offerings, many of which can benefit you.  Check and see!

14 March 2017

Are you a Therapeutic Musician? Get a free kalimba for a deserving client!

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

An anonymous donor has provided funds for five kalimbas

Are you a Therapeutic Musician?  Get a free kalimba for a deserving client!

Do you work with people through your music?  Have you found yourself wishing that you could just gift a kalimba to one of those people?  Did you ever think that if your client had a kalimba of their own, they would become more familiar with it, and that more love and music would blossom forth?

In a collaboration between Kalimba Magic and a generous therapeutic musician who works using kalimbas, a grant is being offered to provide five kalimbas for the clients of therapeutic musicians. We are using the term "therapeutic musician" broadly here - read more to find out how you can get a free kalimba for someone you're working with.

 

04 March 2017

10 Most-viewed Blog Posts of 2016

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A reprise of the past year's "greatest hits"

10 Most-viewed Blog Posts of 2016

I've been really busy putting together the 2017 Kalimba Magic Catalog - our first in about 7 years.  So, I haven't had time to really do a lot of great new material for newsletters. But we did put out some excellent stuff this past year, and I am reprising some of it here.  

This article contains the 10 blogs posts from last year that were viewed by the most people.  If you are a devout follower of Kalimba Magic, it's likely that you've already seen these. But you may appreciate a review, and if you haven't been up on everything we've been putting out, this collection may provide you some very interesting or useful information.

04 March 2017

My Own Special Kalimba Repair

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

I couldn't believe it - a juice spill on my favorite kalimba! Fortunately, I know a good kalimba doctor!

My Own Special Kalimba Repair

It was the grapefruit juice drink that did me in. It somehow splattered on my old (50 years or so!) Bb Treble, perhaps my favorite kalimba, as I was on my way to a performance. While performing, I first noticed one note on the far left not ringing clearly.  About 20 seconds later, the adjacent note went dim, and within a minute, to my distress, the whole left side suddenly stopped ringing.  (My theory: as the juice dried between my kalimba tines and the bridge, it left a juice and dust-based cement that deadened the tines, leaving just a dull, quiet thud.)  I had just witnessed the death of a kalimba!

Even though the kalimba died right in the middle of the performance, I was confident that when I got home, the Kalimba Doctor, who knows how to make dead kalimbas sing again, would take care of me. Luckily I AM the Kalimba Doctor.

18 February 2017

What Are People Saying About Kalimba Magic?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Sharing some of the sweet statements we got from folks in 2016

What Are People Saying About Kalimba Magic?

I don't know exactly why I am doing this.  There may be an element of ego in reprinting my customer's (happy) comments to me.  But there is another motive here: each of these statements has love and warmth and light in it, and it just seemed a shame to keep them all locked up.   Each of these people, in some way or other, has seen me at or near my best.  These comments help tell a part of the story that normally is never shared, and I feel it would be interesting for you to see them.

So, for what it's worth, there are some nice quotes - such as (ahem)"You are truly a purveyor of magic and joy!"   Oh, I do love being the wizard.

And, among the comments sent to Kalimba Magic, I also get some unhappy messages. It is good to hear about how I can improve what I do, and I appreciate feedback that helps me take better care of my customers.

14 February 2017

The Tip Index: Archival Tips (2006-2013)

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements, Tips

They may be a bit harder to find, but they're not lost and they're still very much worth the time!

The Tip Index: Archival Tips (2006-2013)

These early tips are not part of the new Kalimba Magic website, but they are still accessible and are filled with clear and useful information on playing and caring for your kalimba, understanding music in general, and seeing how the kalimba can move people.

11 March 2017

Ferrying Between Worlds

Written by Klara Wojtkowska, Posted in News and Announcements

Playing Karimba for the Dying

Ferrying Between Worlds

Klara Wojtkowska, an accomplished musician and playwright among many other things, in a poetic and poignant essay expresses how profound an experience it was for her to play karimba for someone she loved, helping them make the transition between this world and whatever lays beyond.

When I went to Poland last summer, I planned to go for a friend’s wedding. I did not imagine that God might be pulling me by the hair to carry a karimba and a song across the ocean to my beloved Aunt, who did not want to be dying, but was doing just that.

24 December 2016

Have a Magical Experience Playing Kalimba!

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A Journey through Kalimba Land - Where can you go?

Have a Magical Experience Playing Kalimba!

There are two broadly different types of gifts one can get for the holidays: one can get things, or one can get experiences.  When we fill our lives up with things, we can actually feel emptier.  When we fill our lives up with experiences, we are enriched.  We remember our experiences better than we remember our things.  And we are more present to our experiences.

To some, the kalimba looks a lot like a thing.  If you hang it on the wall or leave it on your coffee table as an ornament, it may just be a thing.  But the kalimba has a voice, and it has encoded intellegence.   If you put some time into it, the kalimba is really quite a fun experience.

Let me share with you what I mean.

24 December 2016

Songs for The Alto Kalimba - "Zambezi"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Free Tablature for Tinashe's Song "Zambezi"

Songs for The Alto Kalimba -

Several people have requested the tablature for Tinashe's popular and touching song "Zambezi," which has been around on YouTube for a while. It is a great song for the kalimba, as it is pretty much just a four-measure riff that is repeated through the song with minimal changes.  It is not difficult and even novice players can learn to play this song in about 10 or 15 minutes.

"Zambezi" is performed by Tinashe on solo Alto kalimba and voice, and we also have a link to him performing it with a four-piece band. There is not much information available about him to be found on the Internet.  But be aware that there is another Tinashe - a female African American artist, who is more famous than the Tinashe of "Zambezi" fame; she doesn't play the kalimba - so try not to confuse the two.

Download the free tablature and learn this simple, pretty song!

29 December 2016

Songs for the Lotus Karimba: Three Trills

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Syncopation, variations, tweaks and trills

Songs for the Lotus Karimba: Three Trills

The Lotus-tuned karimba was created by the inventive recording artist SaReGaMa.  He once received an out-of-tune African-tuned karimba as a gift.  Rather than simply tuning it up, SaReGaMa instead used this as an opportunity to invent several of his own tunings and create music that worked with each tuning.  The Lotus tuning is the one he used for a song that he improvised one night in an effort to get his baby daughter, Lotus, to go to sleep.  He made a video of that improvisation,  known to the world as "Kalimba Solo for Lotus."

Available at the Kalimba Magic Shop, we have two instructional downloads and one book for the innovative Lotus karimba tuning. In this post we are giving away the tablature for Exercise 20, "Three Trills," from the book Playing the Lotus Karimba. A trill on kalimba happens when you have two notes that are exactly the same on both the left and right sides of the kalimba, and you play them quickly, alternating between them.  Listen to find out exactly what this sounds like!

04 January 2017

Songs for the Chromatic Kalimba: "Carol of the Bells"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Finally a breakthrough! Chromatic tablature that is easy to read and understand!

  Songs for the Chromatic Kalimba:

The Chromatic kalimba is a wonderful innovation based on the standard Hugh Tracey diatonic kalimbas such as the Alto and the Treble.  Diatonic kalimbas play basically like the white notes on a piano.  As long as a song stays in key with no accidentals, you can probably play it on an Alto or Treble kalimba.  (An "accidental" is a note that is not in the key signature and requires a "flat," "sharp," or "natural" symbol.  For the kalimba, though, this is a foreign concept, as "accidental" usually means "that note isn't on the kalimba.")

If a song changes keys or has accidental notes, and you want to play it on a kalimba, you need a Chromatic kalimba, which has all the notes of the scale, not just the piano's white notes, but all the black ones too - the flats and sharps.  Hugh Tracey Chromatic kalimbas have the sharps and flats on their back sides, and the diatonic keys on the front sides.

"Carol of the Bells" is a beloved holiday song that can at best be performed in an approximate manner on the Alto kalimba, but you really need the Chromatic kalimba to get the song just right.

28 December 2016

Songs for the Karimba: Building a Karimba Song

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Learn this technique and write your own songs

Songs for the Karimba: Building a Karimba Song

The African-tuned karimba is a very interesting instrument.  Jega Tapera was a South African who played traditional music on a 13-note karimba, a historical folk instrument.  In the 1950s he was discovered by Andrew Tracey, who recognized his excellence, and Tapera subsequently began teaching at the Kwonangoma School in Rhodesia, where the 15-note version of the African-tuned karimba came into being in 1960 to further Tapera's music.  In 1980 the 17-note version was first made by Tracey's South African company, African Musical Instruments, which still sells Hugh Tracey kalimbas today.

Based on much scholarly research, Andrew Tracey put forth a very interesting theory that the karimba is very close to the "original mbira" in southern Africa, dating back over a thousand years, and that the traditional songs still played today on the karimba have roots that are equally ancient.

I find the karimba to be a great instrument, one that "speaks the African tongue."  It is easy for me to create my own African-sounding music just by following a few simple rules.  I'll share some of those with you here.

24 December 2016

Songs for the Freygish Karimba - "Coventry Carol"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Free Tablature for "Coventry Carol" from the Freygish Download

Songs for the Freygish Karimba -

"Coventry Carol" is a 16th century English Christmas Carol.  It has the haunting feel that some old English music evokes, and as a youth I was charmed by it and used to long to play music such as this song.

This old Christmas carol and the Freygish-tuned karimba were made for each other - both are in the exotic-sounding harmonic minor scale.  This and many other great songs are part of the Freygish Download, and you can get the tablature for "Coventry Carol" free in this article. Let's talk about how this song works.

26 December 2016

Songs for the Treble Kalimba - "Silent Night"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Free Tablature for "Silent Night" for the Treble Kalimba

Songs for the Treble Kalimba -

In my mind, most songs that you can play on the Treble kalimba are also possible to play on the Alto kalimba, and this offers great flexibility.  But there are some songs that are written for Alto that require its low notes and are just not possible on the Treble which by nature is in a higher range.  You could retune the Treble into a Bb Treble, and then it would behave just like an Alto with two extra notes.

But there is one (very famous) song that I don't think can be done properly on either the Alto kalimba or the Bb Treble kalimba - it requires the high notes of the Treble kalimba in standard G tuning, and that song is "Silent Night."

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