News and Announcements

29 September 2016

Free Tablature! Alto and Pentatonic Kalimba Kushaura and Kutsinhira

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Following the lead of traditional mbira music works great on modern day kalimbas too!

Free Tablature!  Alto and Pentatonic Kalimba Kushaura and Kutsinhira

How do you play two kalimbas together?  There is no particular tradition for doing that, but there is a deep, wide, and wild tradition of playing two mbira dzavadzimu together - one plays the kushaura part (the leading part) and the other plays the kutsinhira part (the following part).  Often the same high notes are played in the two parts, but the kutsinhira part's high notes will echo the kushaura part's high notes.  If a particular high note is repeated in the first part, the second part will often insert the same high note in between the repeated notes of the first part - that is, one part plays in the gaps of the other.  The resulting music sounds like you are trilling that note twice as fast as a single player should be able to play it.  

So, the next logical step is to apply this method of joining two mbiras together to the Hugh Tracey kalimbas . 

16 September 2016

Playing Kushaura and Kutsinhira Parts on Mbira

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

These two similar parts, one delayed by an eighth note, lean against each other and create something fundamentally new

Playing Kushaura and Kutsinhira Parts on Mbira

The kalimba, as most of us know it, is a new adaptation of the family of African lamellophones that includes the mbira and the karimba.  As such, the kalimba doesn't really have a tradition in Africa.  This is the very reason I am attracted to the instrument. Without a specific African tradition, we are free to create our own new and evolving kalimba styles.

On the extreme opposite end of the "tradition" spectrum from the modern kalimba is the mbira dzavadzimu, or simply, "mbira". The mbira's traditions are strange, quirky, amazing, wonderful, and sometimes downright bizarre all at the same time. One aspect of the mbira's tradition that is never heard in kalimba playing is the doubling of parts in the melody. The leading line is called kushaura, and following line is the kutsinhira.  I invite you to peek inside the amazing world that results when these two parts are put together.

25 September 2016

Kalimba and Mindfulness - 2

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Please study this application of mindfulness to the process of learning to play specific music on kalimba

Kalimba and Mindfulness - 2

Have you ever struggled to learn a piece of music on the kalimba, really studied in detail the exact notes you need to play?  It seems that the kalimba is a simple instrument - there are only a few tines for your left thumb and a few tines for the right thumb.  Surely this is simple.  You should be able to master this instrument after a week of playing it, right?

But as soon as you approach a challenging song on the kalimba (and "challenging" is relative to where you are in your kalimba development), you may well feel that it's impossible.  The notation system seems confusing.  You are getting hopelessly lost on the instrument.  Maybe you can connect three or four notes, but you cannot get any momentum, and you cannot get any flow.  You cannot create music - certainly not the way you can when you just let your thumbs off the leash and start free playing.

Here is how mindfulness can help you.

15 September 2016

Thumbing the Karimba at States of Inflammation

Written by Klara Wojtkowska, Posted in News and Announcements

What's a young professional musician to do when her body fails her?

An introduction from Mark:

High level musicians dedicate their body, their time, their soul, and years to their art. They are driven by the dreams of the greatness they have touched in their musical experiences, and they invest their very lives to this god of music. But what happens when their body fails them? When pain and debility make their work and ambitions look like one of God's great jokes?

Many musical instruments are quite physically demanding: guitar, upright bass, piano, and especially, the violin. But playing the kalimba, in contrast, can be quite gentle on the body, requiring mainly an easy motion of the thumbs.

I invite you to read Klara Wojtkowska's stirring and poetic piece about her journey through the pain of a debilitating autoimmune disease and on to the world of delight and comfort created by the sound and playing of karimba and mbira. It's a beautiful, inspiring trip!

Here is Klara's essay. I hope it moves you as much as it did me.

                                                                                - Mark

15 September 2016

Kalimba and Mindfulness - 1

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Conscious attention can bring many benefits to you and your music

Kalimba and Mindfulness - 1

What is mindfulness?  For me, mindfulness is being as present as I can be to the moment that is unfolding.  

Consider music as a sort of plow that is able to cut a furrow through the present moment.  Good music invites the listener to become entrained in that furrow as the musical plowshare cuts through the unfolding succession of present moments .  Good music, happy, sad, or otherwise, can be a great comfort as it can largely take us from whatever pathway we were wandering down, and instead directs our internal gaze (our attention) to fall upon something wonderful and beautiful.  Mindfulness can help us to be more attentive to the music and to experience it more deeply.

Can the kalimba be a tool for mindfulness?  Of course!

13 September 2016

TIP:Kalimba Lessons on Skype with Mark Holdaway

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

Don't get stuck and let your kalimba gather dust - get some lessons NOW!

TIP:Kalimba Lessons on Skype with Mark Holdaway

I know there are people who purchase kalimbas and just jump right on board and start flying.  And then there are other people who really want to play, but don't quite know what to do with their kalimbas.

If you fall into that second category, you can get tutoring in kalimba ABC's from an excellent, gentle, and compassionate teacher - me!

If you are already familiar with the kalimba and you need some help ramping up to the next level, or if you are working on a particular song and just can't seem to get it, I am sure that I could help you with individualized guidance. 

17 September 2016

Why Kalimba Tablature? Greensleeves!

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The tremendous assistance that kalimba tablature can provide in arranging and learning songs...plus a free CD or 25% coupon!

Why Kalimba Tablature?  Greensleeves!

I have a symbiotic relationship with kalimba tablature:  I work really hard to notate really wonderful music in tablature.  Through working on this tablature, I come to be able to play music that is more difficult and more polished than I would otherwise be able to perform.

I make kalimba tablature better, and kalimba tablature makes me better. 

To get your free Greensleeves tablature PDF, which will work for 8-Note, Alto, or Bb Treble kalimbas, click the image above.

07 September 2016

Where did all the kalimbas go?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Surging in popularity now, kalimbas arrived long ago and then all but vanished

Where did all the kalimbas go?

Kalimbas had been common in many, widespread places, having come along with Africans when they were torn from their native lands by slavers. How and why kalimbas disappeared is a sad and complicated tale.

Today, the kalimba is more popular than ever. People all over the world are creating original, unique kalimba designs. People everywhere are doing exactly what the people of Africa always did with the kalimba over the last millennium: adapting it to play their own musics.

The kalimba is ever so much more popular these days for many reasons: playing it is a uniquely peaceful activity. It is small and very portable. It brings joy, mindfulness, wonder, fun, and a sense of stillness to the mind. A good time playing the kalimba with a partner is among the all-time best experiences of my own life. How could this beautiful little instrument have been lost?

06 September 2016

New, Free Variations to Accompany the Karimba Song "Wa Kalulu"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

You can learn to create your own variations!

New, Free Variations to Accompany the Karimba Song

I have written before about how much fun it is to find variations that work with traditional African kalimba music. This article elaborates on this subject, and how I went about creating my own variations, first by improvisation, and then later in composition inspired by those earlier improvisations.

Even in the case of songs such as "Wa Kalulu" for which only a standard part notation exists, we can create essentially infinite variations to go along with this music. All it takes is two karimba players, one with a good grasp of the song as written (in the book "30 Traditional African Songs for Karimba" for example) and another player who has several attributes: a fertile imagination, the flexibility to change what they are playing when the music they are playing isn't working with the original part, and the sense to stay put for a while when they stumble on something good.

28 August 2016

My Mother's Art

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Your creations can mean a lot more than you think

My Mother's Art

"It looks like something that used to be incredibly beautiful that a huge beast started to claw at," my friend John said when he saw the new piece of art I was hanging on the wall in my college dorm room.  My mother had just mailed me one of her off-loom weavings, and I proudly hung it on the wall. Later, my roommate's cat actually would pull out the lower-hanging clumps of yarn, thereby fulfilling John's prophecy. Over the 35 years that I have had my mother's weaving hanging on various walls, a total of five cats would at times rise to the occasion and pull a piece off.

Here I will recount the story about how I got this woven wall hanging, and how it reflects my mother's inner doubt, as well as my own.  It is a sad story of one person not being able to overcome that doubt, and how I am driven to push on through my own self-doubt.  Maybe there is something here that can help you.

28 August 2016

1000 Kalimbas, Almost Ready To Go

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A huge shipment just arrived from South Africa - here is what happens next

1000 Kalimbas, Almost Ready To Go

Most of the kalimbas I play - and consequently, most of the kalimbas I sell - are Hugh Tracey Kalimbas, made by African Musical Instruments (AMI) in South Africa.

When I started Kalimba Magic in 2005, I ordered about 200 kalimbas, and it took about six weeks from when I placed the order to when they arrived at my door.

Now, I order over 1000 kalimbas at a time, and it takes six to nine months for the kalimbas to get here.  Why so long?  Supply chain issues, more orders from other folks, bigger orders, exchange rate snafus, and a variety of unknowns as well. 

28 August 2016

Back to School with the Catania 6-Note Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A perfect instrument - while they last - for kids between the ages of 5 and 12

Back to School with the Catania 6-Note Kalimba

It is the end of an era - Steve Catania has retired, and the good quality, inexpensive Catania Kalimbas are almost gone.  Most stores that carried them are completely out.  But at Kalimba Magic, because of a very large earlier order, we still have plenty of 6-Note Catania kalimbas in stock.

Why did I order so many 6-Note kalimbas? Here is a tale: The 6-Note came about because I saw a glaring need for a simple, small kalimba, and I suggested that Steve Catania make the 6-Note. Which he did. Perfect for beginners and small children, this beautiful, diminutive instrument has lots of space between tines, so you almost never play the wrong tine by accident.  It has a 1-octave range, but uses the pentatonic (5-note) scale.  It is simple, easy, and it sounds great.

04 September 2016

Practice TIP: Play With Your Eyes Closed!

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

Playing without looking helps you improve in so many ways

Practice TIP: Play With Your Eyes Closed!

Part of what is so great about playing the kalimba is that it is all right there in front of your eyes.   You can see the entire instrument, all its notes, all that it can do, in one glance.  You might not understand it yet, but you can easily see that it is understandable.  Map the shorter kalimba tines to higher notes and the lower tines to lower notes.  Simple, right?

But an even more important tip I can give you is to NOT look at the kalimba as you play.

In this tip we are going to discuss what playing without looking will do for you.

24 August 2016

The Brain and the Kalimba - 2

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

Can you really pay attention to two things at once? You can, but it's a skill you have to cultivate

The Brain and the Kalimba - 2

When I was 24, I finally learned how to talk and play guitar at the same time.  Until then, when playing guitar, I could hear what was being said, and could understand it, but I could not speak or even answer simple questions. 

Why could I not speak and play guitar at the same time?  I suppose the "music generation" part of my brain overlapped too much with the "speech generation" part of my brain. 

And how, exactly, did I learn to speak and play at the same time?  And what does that have to do with the kalimba?

23 August 2016

The Brain and the Kalimba - 1

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

They say you can only think of one thing at a time - kalimba requires you to think of two things at a time!

The Brain and the Kalimba - 1

When I was 10 years old, my father said "I'll give you a dollar if you can go 10 seconds without thinking of a brown bear!"  I jumped up from the dinner table, went to stand in the corner, and started chanting "White bear! White bear!" and got a huge laugh from my whole family.

But truth be told?  I was actually thinking of brown bears the entire time I was trying to fill my mind with images and words of white bears.

Playing kalimba is a lot like that - thinking of white bears and brown bears at the same time.

20 August 2016

Practice TIP: Make it Fun!

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

If playing kalimba is fun, you will want to do it more

Practice TIP: Make it Fun!

There are many different ways to practice kalimba, and you should find the way that makes you happy.  Don't worry about the "right" way, but do search for the way that is right for you.

Everybody plays a bit differently, and everyone learns in different ways.  You do want a challenge so that you feel you are getting better, but you don't often want something that is so challenging that it is not fun.

I share some of the ways that I practice kalimba, and rate them by how fun I find them to be.

16 August 2016

Practice TIP: Explore Your Kalimba

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

...but you need to do more than just explore

Practice TIP: Explore Your Kalimba

Welcome to your kalimba.  Based on the tuning and the note layout of your instrument, your kalimba represents a whole continent of sounds and musical possibilities, and it is well worth exploring it in depth.

When I started playing kalimba in 1986, there was no map to this continent.  There was no internet, and seemingly no information about the kalimba.  What did I do?  I explored my kalimba on my own, gradually learning more and more each day I played.

03 August 2016

New Music Tabs for 2B/14 kalimba in "E1 Tuning"

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

Half the 2B/14 kalimbas we shipped last month were in E1 Tuning - Now there is music for the E1 Tuning

Thomas Bothe is famous for his delightful kalimbas as well as for his unique, individual kalimba tunings.  However, there was one day last month when I was fulfilling orders, and I tuned three 2B/14 kalimbas to the E1 tuning - which is perhaps the classic 2B tuning that most represents Thomas Bothe's soul.  Simple, delicate, easy, and beautiful.

Two of the three customers requested the E1 tuning after they had learned about it from the various 2B tunings I have documented online.  The third 2B/14 customer just asked for "a special tuning" - and I thought "I'm gonna make this E1 tuning an extra special tuning by writing some extra special music for it!"

28 July 2016

Hugh Tracey's Field Recordings from Africa are Alive and Well at ILAM

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The man who created the modern kalimba movement also worked to preserve traditional African music

While Hugh Tracey is best known for the Hugh Tracey kalimba, I believe his most important work was the assemblage of 35,000 field recordings he made through the 1930s, '40s, and '50s of traditional music across sub-Saharan Africa.

These recordings captured music across Africa just before much of the traditional music was eclipsed and even erased by modern European influences such as the western scale, choral church music, and western popular music, which were propagated by radio and recordings. 

Today, Tracey's historical recordings are alive and well and accessible. Anyone can listen to them. Their story follows, as well as how they are being brought to life in our time.

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

 

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