News and Announcements

13 June 2019

Instructional Resources for the Alto Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

There are more books, ebooks, and instructional downloads for the Alto than any other kalimba, and they're all here in this post!

Instructional Resources for the Alto Kalimba

The Alto kalimba has been my favorite kalimba for over 30 years (though I do get infatuated with other kalimbas from time to time, I always come back to the Alto). As such, I have written more books and instructional downloads for the Alto kalimba than for any other kalimba. With so many books to help you on the way, this makes the Alto kalimba a great choice for you.

There are so many reasons why the Alto kalimba is an excellent one to play. If you have small hands, you may want a somewhat smaller kalimba. Otherwise, I think the Alto kalimba can be a great kalimba for you.

13 June 2019

Instructional Resources for the Pentatonic Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This kalimba is great for everyone, beginner to pro!

Instructional Resources for the Pentatonic Kalimba

One thing that was clear after Hugh Tracey's decades of research into the many types of traditional kalimbas in Africa was that a large proportion of them - about 40% - were in pentatonic tunings. This is one of the reasons why Hugh Tracey kalimbas are available in several pentatonic models.

What's so great about the pentatonic scale? Well, with fewer notes (just five per octave), it is conceptually simple, for one. And the Hugh Tracey kalimbas carry that simplicity through to make it physically simpler to play - with larger gaps between the tines, it is easier to play the tine you intended to, meaning that everything is simpler, and you can just relax and really cut loose.

10 June 2019

Instructional Resources for the African Karimba (mbira nyunga nyunga)

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

We have resources for the 17-Note Karimba in the key of A, the 15-Note in F (mbira nyunga nyunga), and Student Karimba

Instructional Resources for the African Karimba (mbira nyunga nyunga)

All of the instruments in the karimba family are very closely related, in fact Andrew Tracey hypothesizes that they all possess the original mbira tuning from 1300 years ago when the first metal-tined instruments were made.

The 8-Note version may actually be the exact replica of the original mbira. Jege Tapera played a 13-note version. It was copied and key-shifted to make the 15-note version of the instrument in the key of F, which is now commonly known as the mbira nyunga nyunga. And AMI has been making the 17-Note karimba in the key of A since about 1980.

Clearly, there is a lot of history here. And a lot of music too.

13 June 2019

My Story of Hugh Tracey

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

He understood the potential loss of traditional African music to the encroachment of the west, and worked his whole life to preserve it

My Story of Hugh Tracey

Hugh Tracey is a complex and important historical figure in the contemporary kalimba world. I should start by stating my relationship to Hugh Tracey: for the last 33 years, I have played instruments he designed, and for about half that time I have made most of my living by selling Hugh Tracey kalimbas. So I might be a little prejudiced, but Hugh Tracey's work was clearly pivotal in the trajectory of modern lamellaphones.

Hugh Tracey, a white European man, cherished traditional African music and made it his life's work to study and preserve that music. But he also invented and marketed the Hugh Tracey kalimba, which is not a traditional instrument at all, and has, arguably, directed some interest away from traditional instruments such as the mbira dzavadzimu or the karimba.

For me though, the Hugh Tracey kalimba has been a doorway to the world of ancient and traditional African music. Would you like to explore that world, and Hugh Tracey's part in it, with me?

05 January 2016

Interview: Andrew Tracey

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This 2008 interview of Andrew Tracey, accomplished kalimba scholar and master of karimba, mbira and kalimba, illuminates the genealogy of African lamellaphones and the history of the Hugh Tracey kalimba

Interview:  Andrew Tracey

During my 2008 visit to his Grahamstown, South Africa home, Andrew Tracey (Hugh Tracey's older son), long-practicing ethnomusicologist and musical performer, shared recollections of his father's work, the early Hugh Tracey kalimbas, the layout of the Hugh Tracey kalimba, and his ethnomusicological research showing the karimba to have the prototypical tuning that was passed down to subsequent instruments such as the mbira dzavadzimu.

We are featuring this article once again as we celebrate Hugh Tracey, Andrew Tracey, and all Hugh Tracey kalimbas this month.

13 June 2019

Instructional Resources for the Treble Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

It was the original hugh tracey kalimba

Instructional Resources for the Treble Kalimba

The Treble kalimba maintains a special place in the history of the kalimba: when Hugh Tracey began to market his new invention in the early 1950s, it was the 17-Note Treble kalimba. The Alto kalimba started selling in the 1960s. The Pentatonic kalimba came in the 1970s as an answer to Earth, Wind and Fire, and the African-tuned Karimba came around 1980, fulfilling Andrew Tracey's dream to popularize this traditional African instrument.  But the Hugh Tracey Treble was THE original Hugh Tracey kalimba.

17 May 2019

How is the Karimba related to the Mbira Nyunga Nyunga?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The mystery of the evolving names of the kalimba

How is the Karimba related to the Mbira Nyunga Nyunga?

Evidence indicates that in 1950, kalimba and karimba were used more or less interchangeably to describe any traditional African thumb piano. Seventy years ago, mbira dzavadzimu meant exactly what it does now - a particular traditional Shona thumb piano - and the mbira nyunga nyunga probably was not even a thing yet. Seventy years ago was just before Hugh Tracey began to build and sell a new instrument which he called a kalimba, which combined features of many traditional instruments and had a western tuning.                                                             

Thumb pianos evolved over time and were affected by numerous influences, ancient and modern, African, European, etc. They have a very rich, varied genealogy. Today, kalimba usually refers to non-traditional thumb pianos. Karimba refers to a particular family of traditional African instruments also known as the African-tuned karimba. Mbira nyunga nyunga, which translates to the "sparkly sparkly mbira" is essentially the same instrument as the karimba, though if it is rustic-looking, it is more likely to be called mbira nyunga nyunga, and a workshop-made instrument might be more likely to be called karimba.

But it isn't exactly that simple, and here I will outline the details of this fundamental discussion.

09 May 2019

Traditional African Music for Mbira Nyunga Nyunga

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This eBook is for the Kwanongoma-style 15-Note Karimba in F

Traditional African Music for Mbira Nyunga Nyunga

The mbira nyunga nyunga, or the 15-Note karimba in F has only been around in this form since 1960. Thousands of Rhodesian (now Zimbabwean) and South African youth were taught the traditional songs on this delightful instrument at the Kwanongoma College of African Music. And, remarkably, it could well be that more than half of the notes on this instrument (and most of the songs for it) are essentially the same as what is thought to be the original tuning of an 8-note instrument invented some 1300 years ago.

And now, we are proud to present this eBook documenting many of the oldest-known songs for the mbira nyunga nyunga.

09 May 2019

eBook for the A minor Karimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A new eBook with material for this exotic minor tuning

eBook for the A minor Karimba

Here is a true story. Lex, a Tucson friend of mine who has hit upon hard times, visited us at Kalimba Magic the other day. Months earlier he had given away his beloved African-tuned karimba so he could put a bad relationship which had included that karimba into the past.

But he really needed to make music, and he came over to see what instrument I had that might speak to him. While we were talking, we wandered past where Sara was editing the new A minor Karimba book, with an A minor karimba next to her that she would play occasionally for reference.

Lex picked up the A minor Karimba and began plucking - and his jaw dropped. Then he smiled and laughed and said "Mysterious and enchanting!" I glanced at Sara's computer screen, but no, the computer was not open to the back cover of the eBook that declares this tuning is "Enchanting and mysterious."  

Obviously the A minor karimba is mysterious and enchanting and Lex went home with an A minor karimba that day.

Yes, Lex's new karimba was the same as the one he'd recently let go of, but in the A minor tuning, it plays quite different music. What a joy!

10 May 2019

The Student Karimba - A Great Introduction to African Music

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Called the "Original Mbira" and the "Kalimba Core" by Andrew Tracey

The Student Karimba - A Great Introduction to African Music

I have heard from people who were disappointed because they bought "too much kalimba" for themselves - meaning they got more notes than they were prepared to deal with (often, 15 or 17 notes turns out to be too many notes for a beginner). For these people, I recommend they start with a 10-note instrument, as this will be easier to get your head around than the larger kalimbas.

Similarly, when people tell me they are disappointed that their "African" kalimba doesn't play African music, I point them in the direction of the karimba (yes, with an "R" in the middle, and no, I don't make these names up myself). And when they find that 15 or 17 notes is too many for them to deal with, I suggest they look into the Student Karimba.

This is a great instrument for children, for adults who may be overwhelmed by bigger kalimbas, and for people who just want a taste of Africa without having to work too hard. (Note: I LOVE to play these instruments myself, and I do perform songs on the Student Karimba. It is a small instrument, but it is also a real instrument.)

09 May 2019

Exotic Minor Chords on the Freygish Karimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This tiny bit of advanced music theory is very simple on the Freygish karimba

Exotic Minor Chords on the Freygish Karimba

Have you ever heard of a "minor major 7" chord? How about a "half diminished 7" chord? Yeah, at the time I had been playing kalimba as long as you probably have, I didn't either.

On the Freygish karimba, you can make the "C minor major 7" chord by simply playing the four tines on the left side of the upper row. You can play the "D half diminished 7" chord by playing the four tines on the right side of the upper row. In other words, you get them for free, and they are easy and obvious.

And THAT is the whole magic of the kalimba: each kalimba can be, and should be, set up to play its own magic in a very simple way.

10 May 2019

A New Painting Option for the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Two Different Colors lets you take instruction from two different sources

A New Painting Option for the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Why are some tines painted? Mainly to help you keep track of where you are on the instrument... but also to assist you in transferring notes from kalimba tablature to the kalimba.

There are now two different systems for painting the 17-Note kalimba in C. The Chinese system paints 5 tines, including the central tine. On the other hand, the Kalimba Magic system paints 6 tines.

If you want to use the Kalimba Magic instructional materials for the 17-Note kalimba in C, you need to use the Kalimba Magic painting system. If you want to use the Chinese instructional materials, you should use the Chinese painting system.

I have recommended people get their kalimbas unpainted, and they can color selected tines with Sharpie marker, which is removable, so you can change to whatever system you end up using, or even go back and forth.

And now - here is a way of painting the tines that embraces both the Chinese and Kalimba Magic systems.

15 April 2019

Easter Hymns for the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Beautiful hymns on the kalimba - what more can I say? Heaven!

Easter Hymns for the 17-Note Kalimba in C

To me, holidays have always been, at their core, about music. The music pervades the essence of the celebration and the ceremony. The music deepens our experience of the numinous moment.

And it gives you a great gift that you can bestow on any around you when you can create such beautiful and moving music. That is why I study Christmas carols, and that is also why I learn Easter hymns.

13 April 2019

Exotic Tunings for 17-Note Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Reinvent your Kalimba, Re-energize your Kalimba Playing

Exotic Tunings for 17-Note Kalimba

If you ever get to the point where you feel your kalimba is old hat, or you cannot think of anything new to do on it, you need to come back to this article.

By retuning your kalimba to a new tuning, you basically get a new instrument that presents you with a new world view and plays new music, all for the price of... the five or ten minutes it will take for you to retune your kalimba.

You would be amazed - these tunings sound so rich and amazing and different! Just listen to each one. Each is a land I would love to explore.

16 April 2019

10 Easy Tips - Scales on the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

These Tips will help you discover new scales on your kalimba - and their format fits perfectly on your phone!

10 Easy Tips - Scales on the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Learning your kalimba's musical scale is very important to understanding your kalimba and the music it can make. The scale is like a magic key that will open many doors. But what if I told you that your kalimba, just as it is, plays several different scales?

Each scale is like a universe of musical possibilities. We have ten tips for you about how to use four different scales, on the 17-Note in C, in your music. Each of these four scales is like a different land, or a different flavor. If you want this sort of richness in your kalimba playing, read on!

17 April 2019

The Kalimba and Transformation

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Humans have transformed the kalimba over millenia. The kalimba can also transform us.

The Kalimba and Transformation

The kalimbas that we play and see today seem like very modern instruments, but the kalimba is rooted in many centuries of history and tradition. As is normal for humans, we have been busy remaking the kalimba and transforming these instruments into something new. It's a process that has been going on for millenia, and people continue to transform the kalimba into something ever more amazing.

But why do all of this work, continually remaking the kalimba?

In part, because of love. Those who love the kalimba have always sought to improve upon it.

In part, because the kalimba is a tool that we, individually, can use to transform ourselves, becoming better humans.

10 March 2019

Finally! A Hard Copy Book for the 17-Note Kalimba in C

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The "44 Beginner Songs" Book is a Printed, Paper Version of the Popular 44-Songs Download

Finally! A Hard Copy Book for the 17-Note Kalimba in C

People have been asking me for a hard copy book for the newly popular 17-Note Kalimba in C - the new kalimbas that have been made in China over the last 18 months. These are sold under a variety of names, including Donner, Walter, Gecko, and Heart-17, but all of these are essentially the same instrument, with the same number of tines and the same note layout.  In other words, all of these kalimbas can use the same book.

That book is "44 Beginner Songs for the 17-Note Kalimba in C." This hard copy book has the same material as the ebook download of the same name.

If you have been waiting for a book for your 17-Note Kalimba in C, this is it!

25 March 2019

Kalimba Americana for Alto Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Play favorite folk and popular music on your Alto kalimba!

Kalimba Americana for Alto Kalimba

This is the music I grew up with - the American song book! These are some of the songs that bind us together as citizens of the great American experiment. To many of us, this is some of the sweetest music in the world!

This 54-page PDF download with clickable links to MP3 files has tablature for 29 different versions of 25 different songs. This book has enough easy songs to have a beginner playing right away, and it has enough complex songs to keep you working for months or longer!

11 March 2019

How does the Kalimba Relate to the Piano?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The kalimba's unique note layout really affects the music it makes

How does the Kalimba Relate to the Piano?

A customer recently asked:

"I am having a lot of trouble playing my kalimba. I took piano lessons as a child for three years and I think this is the trouble. Is there a tip to help me make sense of reading the kalimba music as opposed to reading piano music?"

The kalimba and the piano are very different instruments! Two big differences between them are that the kalimba only has a small subset of the notes the piano has, and the notes on the kalimba are arranged in a way that is fundamentally different from the arrangement on the piano.

While the general music introduction you got from piano lessons will be helpful on your kalimba journey, the specific muscle memory (and the way you think about reading and playing music) that you developed from playing piano is pretty much irrelevant to playing the kalimba.

15 March 2019

Maurice White's Kalimba Tuning Revisited

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Maurice White (of Earth, Wind & Fire fame) started playing the Hugh Tracey Kalimba in his signature tuning 50 years ago

Maurice White's Kalimba Tuning Revisited

In ancient Africa there were dozens or even hundreds of great kalimba innovators, all lost to the dust of time. These ancestors we must honor, explicitly or implicitly, every time we pick up a kalimba.

Two people of the modern era who have done the most to move the kalimba forward are Hugh Tracey and Maurice White.

Hugh Tracey studied traditional African instruments extensively, and he also made the first commercial kalimbas to be marketed globally, starting in the 1950s. On this website, his name is well known.

Maurice White, leader of the pop and R&B band "Earth, Wind & Fire" is the world's first kalimba star. He played the Hugh Tracey kalimba, but with a twist.

25 March 2019

A cool custom tuning - and live looping!

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Only at Kalimba Magic

A cool custom tuning - and live looping!

This kalimba started life as a standard Hugh Tracey Alto kalimba with pickup, in standard G tuning. What is it now, and how did it get there?

Let's start with "How did this kalimba get to be this way?" This kalimba setup and tuning are the result of a series of requests from one of my repeat kalimba customers, Dajari Makena. He and I have collaborated developing great tunings. He wanted half the tines bent upward. He wanted a unique D minor tuning. He wanted something that reflected Africa. He wanted treble tines on the upper row. And he wanted a special paint job.

Yes, it took a bit of fiddling with, but when this kalimba was born from the imagination of a beloved client and my own interpretative tuning, I was so struck by it that I had to share it with you.

17 February 2019

Learn to Play the 10-Note Kalimba - Revised

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Four high quality instructional downloads will supercharge your kalimba journey

Learn to Play the 10-Note Kalimba - Revised

Kalimba Magic is the leader in kalimba instructional materials. We take that work to the next level with these four instructional eBooks for the 10-Note Kalimba in C. Three of the downloads are formatted for iPad or tablet, but you can use them on your smartphone (or any computer). Each page teaches a bite-sized bit of music. As this music is all cyclical, you repeat those four measures about a dozen times, becoming more sturdy as you go. If you want to hear what each song or pattern sounds like when played by yours truly, just touch the tablature - an MP3 will be downloaded, and you can play along with me!

The Christmas book download is formatted more like a standard book, and will print on 8.5 inch x 11 inch paper. This one is better for a computer screen or a laptop.

25 March 2019

25% off Fancy Quilted Kalimba Bags

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Coupon Code BAG25

Many people have been eyeing these nice kalimba bags made by Louise Sloman-Fuller. Louise knows kalimbas - she worked at AMI in South Africa for almost 20 years, taking big orders and organizing kalimba shipments all around the world. Now she makes arts and crafts, including these sweet, unique bags for kalimbas.

If you have been sitting on the sidelines, now is the time to jump in and make your move with this 25% coupon code.

22 February 2016

Is it Kalimba, Karimba, or Mbira?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

What name should I use for my thumb piano?

Is it Kalimba, Karimba, or Mbira?

When discussing thumb pianos, people use the instrument names kalimba, karimba, mbira, mbira dzavadzimu, and mbira nyunga nyunga - sometimes with specific intent, and sometimes nearly interchangeably.  Where are these different names from, and what do they mean?

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