21 July 2016

Now The Book: 30 Traditional African Karimba Songs

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This 72-page book contains the music to about 30 traditional karimba tunes

Now The Book: 30 Traditional African Karimba Songs

It is my feeling that "About 30 Traditional Kalimba Songs..." is the most significant kalimba book I have written to date. This book is written from the point of view that the karimba is a living relic; I believe that the kalimbas that were played over a millenium ago had very similar note layouts to the lower half of the two-tiered modern karimba. This means that the music in this collection of wonderful traditional tunes could be very similar to the music that people in Africa played more than 1000 years in the past! When I play these songs, I imagine myself experiencing something of what ancient kalimba players may have thought and felt as they created and played similar music. A unique and magical connection!

Now, don't you want to get some of that?

If you have a karimba already, you need this book. And if you don't have a karimba, you might want to consider getting one - that's how good this book is.

21 July 2016

Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, on Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Free Tablature for Alto, Treble and G Chromatic Kalimbas

Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, on Kalimba

The Hugh Tracey kalimba is the work of a lifetime. From 1920 to 1954, musicologist and historian Hugh Tracey honed his experience, appreciation and understanding of African music and musical instruments. Then, in an endeavor to create a new kalimba and one that would be able to appeal to western ears, he built over 100 prototype instruments of various designs which integrated aspects of several traditional kalimbas, from about 1950 to 1954. When he felt he had perfected his design, the Treble kalimba was born, and it was followed by the deeper-voiced Alto a few years later.

But after Hugh Tracey had developed his masterpiece instrument, he had another challenge:  how could he get people interested? How could he convince them to take his kalimba - and him - seriously? The answer was, in part, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," the beautiful piece by J.S. Bach that everyone knows and loves. I myself have played this enchanting song at weddings, memorial services, and silent Quaker Meeting for Worship.

Now, I give you the key to unlock this song: tablature for "Jesu" for several different kalimbas.

03 August 2016

2B/9 Kalimbas Available in Sansula Tunings

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

Instructional books and downloads are available for: Standard A minor, Heavenly A, Beautiful E, and C Major tunings

While the Thomas Bothe "2B" kalimbas are charming and delightful, they have one major drawback - there is a dearth of instructional materials for them.  This is mainly because each kalimba Thomas makes is an individual, tuned to its own unique tuning, and so it's not really possible to write a book for each one.

I had a great idea about making it possible for people to be taught how to play 2/B kalimbas. The idea came about this way: Over the last 10 years I produced several instructional books/downloads for four different Hokema sansula tunings (a sansula is a special kind of kalimba). While pondering how to make 2/B's teachable, it hit me: why not offer the 2B/9 kalimbas tuned to these four sansula tunings so people could use the sansula books to learn their 2B instruments? So that is what we have done, and below I describe each of the books which can be used with our new "alt" 2B kalimbas.

 

23 June 2016

The Electric Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

It was good enough for Jimi

The Electric Kalimba

Did Jimi Hendrix really play kalimba? 

26 June 2016

The Thomas Bothe "2B" Kalimbas Return

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Get your 2B kalimba while they last

The Thomas Bothe

"I received my 2B/9 Kalimba several days ago and it is truly a magical little instrument... I LOVE it!  I love the A/C tuning too...great choice.  I am drawn to picking it up frequently and picking out random tunes.  I don't really now what I'm doing, but it always sounds great!"

    -  Marcy, 2016

 "The 2B kalimba arrived today.  What a dear instrument!  I just adore it"

     -  Vickie, 2016

 

26 June 2016

Getting a Second Kalimba

Written by Leslee Morrison, Posted in News and Announcements

Leslee Morrison's Second Kalimba Has Opened a New World of Possibilities

Getting a Second Kalimba

Acquiring a second kalimba in a different tuning is almost like stepping into the exciting realm of kalimba for the first time - everything seems so fresh and new.   However, unlike the first time, I come to the second kalimba with an established set of rhythms and thumb patterns I learned on the first kalimba.  These patterns do transfer to the second kalimba, and it feels like I am flying.

 

01 July 2016

Infinite Possibility Within Each Line

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

One single musical idea can be stretched so far...

Infinite Possibility Within Each Line

When I play kalimba by myself, I usually go pretty deep. It's like meditation, only more playful. After playing for 20 or 30 minutes, I am usually in a very peaceful state. I seem to look within while I play, and when I stop playing, I find that I don't quite focus on anything in this physical world. It usually takes me five or ten minutes to re-acclimatize to the world. WARNING: Do not operate heavy machinery while playing kalimba! (So far, there is not a call to raise the legal age for kalimba playing to 21.)

Playing kalimba with someone else can also be a very creative experience, and here I will discuss doing that very thing, using a kalimba song that is historically important to explain and illustrate. 

16 June 2016

Kalimbas for Accessibility

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Scales and Chords for One-Sided 8-Note Kalimbas

Kalimbas for Accessibility

I have known several people who only have the use of one hand, and two of them play kalimba. Kalimba Magic offers a special one-sided kalimba, either in a left handed or a right handed setup.

It seems you would need both the left and right hands to simulate the full kalimba experience. The theory is that the kalimba evolved from huge log xylophones, made from actual logs, which were played by at least two people, one on each side, playing interweaving parts. The kalimba plays those same two parts, but the two players who used to play on opposite sides of the xylophone, are both now sitting inside the player's head.

Yes, left and right hands playing interlocking parts is fundamental to the traditional, two-sided kalimba, but it is most definitely possible to play one handed kalimba and sound good. When you play the one-sided kalimba, you are playing something set up very differently from the two-sided type. The notes are laid out in a linear setup and are played using different rules.

 

26 May 2016

Words About Maurice White's Kalimba Playing

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

And how you can get a kalimba like Maurice White's

Words About Maurice White's Kalimba Playing

A lot of people who play kalimba were first exposed to the instrument when Maurice White of the band Earth, Wind and Fire pierced their hearts with its sound so many years ago, first beginning in the 1970s .

While I did always like hearing Earth, Wind and Fire on the radio, I never even knew Maurice White played kalimba until after I started Kalimba Magic and people started pointing out the sorts of things I would need to know to stay in business.

Now I'm making up for lost time.

31 May 2016

How Maurice White's Kalimba Playing Touched My Life

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Joe Hernandez is learning to play all of Maurice's kalimba parts

How Maurice White's Kalimba Playing Touched My Life

There are probably tens of thousands of kalimba players around the world who first learned about the kalimba from Maurice White. One of them is Joe Hernandez:

"I saw Maurice White play in 1988 in Kansas City, the first time I had ever actually seen a kalimba. I was amazed and wish I had attempted to find one and start playing back then. Thanks to Kalimba Magic, I finally got my own kalimba and I love it. Too bad it took me over 30 years to discover where to get one."

But wait till you see what Joe is doing with his kalimbas.

24 May 2016

What's New at Kalimba Magic and the Kalimba World?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Think globally and skype with us - act locally and learn with us

What's New at Kalimba Magic and the Kalimba World?

I've been playing with statistics lately, and I've learned some interesting things. Kalimba Magic has a huge international foot print.  Last month, about 50% of our sales went overseas.  We shipped to Japan, China, Australia, Europe, South America, and even to that friendly country to the north - Canada.  But we have been almost invisible in my own hometown of Tucson; and less than one half of one percent of all my kalimba sales are to people here in Arizona.

I am working to change that.  I am reaching out to my neighbors, friends, and community here in Tucson, as well as farther out across the world.  I am doing what I can to spread the word about the kalimba, not just over the internet, but from one heart to another.  I invite you to read about how I am reaching out to both the local and the international kalimba communities.

23 May 2016

New Tunings for the Lotus Karimba - One You Can Do Yourself!

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The C Major Lotus Tuning is one you can do. The Em/Am Lotus Tuning is one for us to do.

New Tunings for the Lotus Karimba - One You Can Do Yourself!

Yesterday, two sansula players came to Kalimba Magic headquarters with their sansulas, both of which were in standard A minor tuning. They had grown tired of the enchantingly beautiful standard A minor tuning and wanted to play different music. After trying several tunings, they both decided to go for the Heavenly A tuning. They left happy, and the new tuning has opened many new pathways for them to explore.

Why am I telling you this in an article about Lotus Karimba tunings? Because the standard Lotus tuning (which is equally good for playing in G minor or C minor) itself can become boring if you are trapped in the same old patterns, and a new Lotus tuning may be exactly what you need to break out of the doldrums.

23 May 2016

Titos Sompa and Mark Holdaway: Merging Sound and Story in an Evening of Kalimba

Written by Michelle Hollett, Posted in News and Announcements

Review of a house concert in Tucson, May 2016

Titos Sompa and Mark Holdaway: Merging Sound and Story in an Evening of Kalimba

On the cusp of the new moon, on the evening of May 4th, a group of individuals gathered in the living room of Tabitha Danloe, before performers Mark Holdaway and Titos Sompa, and around the kalimba—the force of the evening. Titos Sompa is a Congolese Master in dance, drum, kalimba, and more. Mark Holdaway is the founder of Kalimba Magic.

My own experience with the kalimba is brand new—just a brush stroke in the air. I am no expert in its anthropological beginnings: the places, the cultures; the spiritual roots and experiences; the sounds the kalimba can make and how they happen. But Titos Sompa and Mark Holdaway are experts—and each in their own way. In this intimate concert setting, each of the men pulled the audience into their individual, and shared, passion for the kalimba. And it was plain to see: it’s a passion that is rooted deep in their hearts, and deep in their stories.   A profundity of story was what I experienced that night, and was what I took home with me. The kalimba inspires story. The kalimba is story.

26 April 2016

Doug Fitch on using the Hugh Tracey Kalimba

Written by Doug Fitch Smith, Posted in News and Announcements

Doug is a studio percussionist in NYC, and the kalimba is in his bag

Doug Fitch on using the Hugh Tracey Kalimba

Hi! I'm Doug Fitch, and I have been playing kalimba for about five years. I work as a studio musician in New York City. I'm a percussionist, and one of the special things I bring to the table is the kalimba, and specifically I like Hugh Tracey kalimbas the best.  I've found there is just nothing else like them out there. I own several, and have given them as gifts to friends and family.

I'll be sharing here some of what I've learned about playing, recording, and amplifying the kalimba.  The music you are hearing as you read this is a bit of what I do with the Hugh Tracey kalimba.

 

08 April 2016

Free Tablature for Pentatonic Kalimbas in Exotic Tunings

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Great music for G minor and Ake Bono tuned 11-Note Pentatonic Kalimbas

Free Tablature for Pentatonic Kalimbas in Exotic Tunings

It turns out there are dozens of possible ways to arrange the notes into a pentatonic scale. A pentatonic scale is any scale that has five unique notes per octave, a simplification over the standard seven note major scale.  The pentatonic scales tend to sound raw, earthy, primitive. About 40% of the kalimbas Hugh Tracey encountered in his travels around Africa had various sorts of pentatonic scales, and Maurice White of the band Earth, Wind and Fire put his kalimba into a pentatonic scale to make it resonate more with Africa. 

My take: With fewer notes, there is less potential for making mistakes on the pentatonic scale. This frees one up to play more powerfully and more emotionally.

It is pretty easy to change the tuning from one sort of pentatonic scale to another - this is something you can do yourself. You could explore all of these exotic tuning destinations on your own, with a single pentatonic kalimba.

As it happens I have transcribed onto tablature a couple of songs that I improvised on the pentatonic kalimba, each in an exotic tuning. I happen to like them both a lot! The tablature makes it very easy for you to learn them and both are available right here on this page. In addition to the tablature, the songs are also presented on video, giving you some great tools to help you learn how to play like a pro!

 

08 April 2016

A New Pentatonic Tuning from 1970's Africa: F7 Bebey

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Francis Bebey used this tuning in his song "Breaths" - what a great tuning!

A New Pentatonic Tuning from 1970's Africa: F7 Bebey

Someone called a few months back. His wife had recently died, and he was working on healing from that great loss. He had played mbira dzavadzimu in the past - and since the mbira is all about helping us to connect with the ancestral spirits, I figured he wanted some help with that.

But instead of being drawn to mbira music, this man was drawn to the song "Breaths", written by Francis Bebey, with lyrics focusing on how our ancestors live on in the physical world around us. For a bit of background, Francis Bebey was a guitarist, singer, songwriter, and kalimba player from Cameroon. Remember, Cameroon is close to the original birthplace of the kalimba - Gerhard Kubik (Austrian ethnologist famous for his African music study and collections) asserts that bamboo-type kalimbas originated there about 3000 years ago, and they are still made there today.

The bereaved caller wanted to learn to play "Breaths", and the first thing he needed was to know which kalimba it could be played on and in what tuning. So I began some research to give him an answer.

With detailed listening, I discovered that Francis Bebey used a simple pentatonic scale, but it was one that I had not encountered before. And upon jamming with this tuning, I immediately decided to share it with the world, because it really is cool and African and funky. Watch the video "Floaty Kalimba" and see if you're not won over!

13 April 2016

New Tip Series for Three Exotic Pentatonic Tunings

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

How to understand a new tuning, and how to make sense of the tuning charts

New Tip Series for Three Exotic Pentatonic Tunings

The pentatonic scales have a great power, related to the fact that playing them does not require as much thought as other scales demand. They have fewer notes, and they are simpler instruments, both physically (with more space between adjacent tines) and intellectually. However, there are some important basic things that you should know about pentatonic scales, and these little bits of wisdom are applicable to almost any scale at all.

In other words, learn the lessons these simple scales have to teach, and you can take those lessons to any kalimba and any tuning you want.

08 April 2016

Retuning the Pentatonic Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A Guide to Changing from G Major Tuning to Other Exotic Tunings

Retuning the Pentatonic Kalimba

Why would anyone retune their kalimba? Well, I hope you DO tune up your kalimba every few weeks or so, at least to maintain its correct original tuning. However, once you learn the skills required to brush up the kalimba's tuning, you also possess the skills required to explore alternative tunings - you just need to push or pull the tines a bit farther than the very delicate moves required to fine-tune the kalimba.

But again, why would someone retune their kalimba to a different tuning? Because different musics are available to different tunings, and because different tunings help produce different emotional expression. If you ever start to get bored with your particular kalimba and what you can do with it, you should consider changing to another tuning to see what new music might speak to you.

This article walks you through four different possible retunings for the 11-note pentatonic kalimba. So, if fear or uncertainty were preventing you from taking the plunge and retuning your kalimba, you now have the tools and guidance to jump into the river and baptise yourself in the flow of ever-changing musical possibilities. Really - once you begin to explore new tunings, it's a whole new world!

11 April 2016

How One Music Therapist Uses the Pentatonic Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

MT Lee Anna Rasar Specializes in the 6-Note Pentatonic

How One Music Therapist Uses the Pentatonic Kalimba

One of the best kalimbas to use in music therapy is also our least expensive kalimba - the 6-Note Catania Pentatonic kalimba. While there are a lot of spirituals and children's songs that can be played on the 6-Note Pentatonic, probably its best uses are improvisational in nature. You just pick it up, twiddle your thumbs, and music comes out!

Lee Anna Rasar is a professor in the Music Therapy department at University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. She has used the 6-Note pentatonic kalimba and other kalimbas extensively in music therapy. The following is from a letter that Lee Anna wrote to Kalimba Magic about a variety of her successes:

I have found the pentatonic kalimbas to be very useful in music therapy because they allow immediate access to people who do not read music and who may have difficulty understanding and reading adaptive notation systems or following cues. They are also useful with groups of adults and children to allow immediate performances together without first needing practice time.

02 April 2016

The Definitive Collection of Traditional African Karimba Music

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This 74-page PDF download has the music to about 30 traditional tunes

The Definitive Collection of Traditional African Karimba Music

This is one of the books I've been wanting to write for around five years, and now, with much-appreciated contributions from Ivodne Galatea, I am proud to present this collection of tunes for the African-tuned karimba.

This book is written from the point of view that the karimba is a living relic; I believe that instruments were played over 1000 years ago that had very similar note layouts to the lower half of the modern karimba . This means that the music in this collection could be very similar to the music that people in Africa played more than a millenium in the past. Now, don't you want to get some of that?

 

24 March 2016

Learn "Vana Vanogwara" on Karimba - Chiwoniso

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Learn the Song Vanavogwara on Karimba

Learn

In 2013, a legendary figure in African music was suddenly taken from us. Chiwoniso Maraire was a shining light, a great singer and a great player of the mbira nyunga nyunga, also known as the African tuned karimba.

Her instrument of choice is of interest to us for two reasons. Andrew Tracey hypothesizes that this is the original mbira first made in southern Africa some 1300 years ago. But Chiwoniso had a more personal connection to this instrument - the mbira nyunga nyunga was the instrument played, and made famous in America, by her father, Dumisani Maraire - or Dumi as his friends knew him.

08 March 2016

The Story of the Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The history of the thumb piano in Africa and how the kalimba got to be a household name

The Story of the Kalimba

I just gave a presentation on the kalimba at the OLLI-UA  (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Arizona) in Tucson, and decided to share with you the Powerpoint of the presentation (actually it's a PDF of the Powerpoint).  A great thing about this 45 page PDF presentation is that it has many clickable links to interesting sound recordings and YouTube videos, which really make the presentation come alive.  One negative is that at a number of places, I made instructions to myself to play a certain song, or show a particular kalimba; these instructions are not presently linked to anything, so these parts of the presentation will be missing for the time being.

26 February 2016

Learn the Afroharp Now

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This new instructional download takes you from simple to amazing in 46 pages!

Learn the Afroharp Now

The Afroharp is a legendary 13-note, two level kalimba created and manufactured for a short period in late 1960s Chicago.  Because we feel that the Afroharp is a valuable and compelling instrument, Kalimba Magic has been selling new instruments in the Afroharp tuning for several months. 

08 March 2016

The Kalimbula - An Electric Ceramic Sansula

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

I've been having fun experimenting with tunings again...

The Kalimbula - An Electric Ceramic Sansula

The Kalimbula is a cool instrument that I've been enjoying playing in a variety of tunings.  I have tried all of the canonical sansula tunings, including the C Major I use in this video with new Kalimbula music.

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