News and Announcements

30 November 2016

Early Kalimbas - a Speculation

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

the evolution of kalimbas and channeling how they might have sounded

Early Kalimbas - a Speculation

 Kalimbas have a rich, varied, and very long history.  Early kalimbas were likely quite different from anything you have seen. Over the years/in my travels in a life focused on playing, writing, and teaching about kalimbas I have picked up two historical instruments by happenstance that to me are preciously full of history and secrets, which both compels and intrigues me. Both instruments were originally separately acquired in Africa in the 1950s… that much I know. Their stories, heritage, and sound constitute an important piece of the “genetics” of the kalimba, and I suspect that you may be interested in learning a little more about them too.

 

30 November 2016

Playing "When I'm Gone" (the "Cups" song) on C Alto Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Get the free C Alto tablature for this huge internet hit song

Playing

A few years ago, I saw a 10-year-old girl flipping her cup to this song, and I have to admit I was blown away by how well she was doing it.  Last month when I found the video for Anna Kendrick's pop song "When I'm Gone" and connected it to the cup routine I'd seen some years before, I suddenly understood why this video has 300 million views - it takes dozens of views to learn how to do that cup jive!

I put in my dozens of views - but it wasn't to learn the cup trick. I was, at first, freeform jamming along on the kalimba.  But slowly, the more I played with this song, the more my playing settled down into a repeatable part.  And that's what I share with you here.

27 November 2016

Alto Exercises to Expand Your Skills, Part 1

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

familiarity with octave and fifth intervals gives the basic foundation for playing traditional mbira music on the Alto kalimba

Alto Exercises to Expand Your Skills, Part 1

African mbira music is tremendously compelling to me, and I had been working to translate it onto the more accessible Hugh Tracey Alto and Treble kalimbas for months but feeling quite frustrated.  I could not find my intuitive wisdom with this traditional music. When it came, the realization was like the sun coming up after a long dark night, and suddenly shining bright on the mountains. The issue was... intervals!  (You can hear two wonderful mbira songs right now by clicking in Related Articles below, on "Listen to Mark..." or the YouTube song below it.)

Basically, the distance between any two notes is called an interval. Most western music is based on small intervals, such as the 2nd and 3rd, while much of African music is based on larger intervals, such as the 8th (octave) and the 5th. I had just realized that my western training needed to get out of the way just a little bit, so a different way of seeing music could bloom. In this post we discuss intervals and give some simple exercises to help you get a solid footing with these building blocks of all music, and especially of mbira music.

 

21 November 2017

What's New at Kalimba Magic?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Save 25%, New Products, New Tunings, and New Services

What's New at Kalimba Magic?
  • We have a 25% discount coupon code for some of our most popular non-electrified kalimbas.
  • We have a new middle eastern tuning for the Alto kalimba and some great new paired tunings for playing Pentatonic and Alto kalimbas together.
  • We have new kalimba accessories.
  • And for the holiday season, we're offering gift wrapping service with kalimba purchases. 

15 November 2016

Experiencing Gratitude - Walking, Kalimba, and Christmas Carols

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This is the main technique I use to keep on the happy side of life

Experiencing Gratitude - Walking, Kalimba, and Christmas Carols

While I have not been diagnosed with clinical depression, I am prone to struggle with depression.   Or rather, I would struggle with depression, except that I have a powerful tool at my disposal that proves effective against depression.

Some days I wake up and tell myself I don't need my early morning walk, and on those days, I tend to take a nosedive around 9 or 10 AM.  By then, I realize that this is my wake-up call.  If I don't go out, walk, and play kalimba - for myself and for the world - then I will soon be sliding down that black hole.

As I was walking today at 9:30 - quite late for me, but in time to save the day - I was struck by a chord of gratitude for, through, and because of, my kalimba music.

20 November 2016

Sound Files to Help You Tune Your Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Listen to MP3s for Alto, Treble, Sansula, Karimba, and Lotus

Sound Files to Help You Tune Your Kalimba

I've seen it happen dozens of times - maybe hundreds.  Someone gets a kalimba with the best of intentions, they sort of connect with it, but they are afraid to really take ownership of the instrument - they doubt their own ability to tune the instrument.  And so over time, their kalimba drops out of tune, playing becomes unpleasant, and the kalimba goes into the closet.

But I have also seen the opposite.  I have seen people who doubted their own musical ability and doubted they had the technical skills to maintan their instrument's tuning.  However, they so wanted to play the kalimba, that they overcame their self-doubt and connected with their inner musicality, trusted their ear, and successfully tuned their kalimba.

These sound recordings - where you hear me playing each note, properly tuned, slowly, from left to right, for some of our most popular kalimbas - should help you transition into successfully maintaining your instrument's tuning.

14 November 2016

What kalimba plays the songs on Top 40 Radio?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

I've been jamming out on kalimba... playing along with Top 40 Radio!

What kalimba plays the songs on Top 40 Radio?

I was very disappointed on election night a couple weeks ago, as I am sure many of you were as well. Leading up to the election, I had taken to listening to more and more news and analysis, mostly on NPR and Democracy Now, and when I saw the writing on the wall, I decided I needed to take a huge break from the news. So now, when I drive somewhere, or when my clock radio wakes me up, I listen to a local Top 40 / variety radio station (92.9 FM if you are in Tucson).

To my surprise, and for the first time in my life, I love pop music! And I have been playing along with the radio on my kalimbas. I've been having a lot of fun, and I thought that it would be useful to many people if I shared the keys of these songs and what kalimbas will play in those keys.

 

14 November 2016

"Taireva" Tablature for Mbira and C Alto Kalimba

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Learning this song on Alto Kalimba has put me into "Beginner's Mind"

Have you ever read the book, "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind"?  The basic idea is that we can make great progress on our journey by approaching everything with an open, beginner's mind, for it is in this state that we are ready to be taught, we are ready to see, and we are ready to understand.  The expert who already knows everything might not ever see the truth.

While I like to think of myself as a kalimba expert, I do get knocked on my (musical) butt quite often.  So really, I am only an expert at playing in the fairly narrow musical style that I know how to play. 

For me, to learn mbira music on the kalimba is a leveling experience.  The thumb patterns required to play this music on kalimba are so foreign that I have been brought down to the level of "total beginner."

21 November 2016

Afroharp Book Now Available

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

This book shows you how to make great music in the Afroharp tuning

Afroharp Book Now Available

The Afroharp is a legendary 13-note, two-level kalimba created and manufactured for only a short period in late 1960s Chicago. This instrument plays sweet, hauntingly beautiful, harmonic music, and the Afroharp's particular tuning is at the heart of the music it makes.

The Afroharp is gone, with only a few floating around in the world. But Kalimba Magic has started building instruments in the Afroharp tuning, made from Hugh Tracey Alto kalimbas with electronic pickup - just as the original Afroharp had a connection for a "high impedance dynamic microphone", as you can see if you check out the fascinating manual included with new Afroharps back in the day, in the archived newsletter article "Afroharp Article #2" in the links below this post. 

We are happy to offer Playing the Afroharp, a 46-page instructional book with downloadable sound files along with many songs in kalimba tablature.

11 November 2016

The Topsy-Turvy World of Mbira Music

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A close look at the inner workings of the mbira song "Taireva" reveals remarkable and quirky details

The Topsy-Turvy World of Mbira Music

Mbira music is elusive. You think you understand it, you reach to grasp it, but then it slips through your fingers.

There are in truth many ways to understand mbira music - and you learn to strive to come to the place where you touch all of those understandings without holding any.

In another blog post, I give away the tablature for the song "Taireva," for both mbira and C Alto kalimba.   In this post I detail some of the more subtle aspects of traditional mbira music, using "Taireva" to help in the analysis.  I show you new ways to think about mbira music that will help you play it with that magical feeling of dancing in between one way and another.

Also, the level of detail in the traditional music of the mbira is actually pretty inspiring.  That Africans were doing this stuff many centuries ago really speaks to the genius of the ancient African mind.

04 November 2016

LimbaTrip in Japan

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Yohei Kisanuki plays some of the best Chromatic Kalimba in the world!

LimbaTrip in Japan

When Kalimba Magic gets an order for an instrument and we ship it out, we have no idea if this kalimba will sit in its box unused for years, or if it will become the recipient's new best friend, accompanying him or her on daily journeys and sharing beautiful music for years.  I hope the latter, of course.  It is always nice to see when someone does really well with their kalimbas.

I recently learned of the great kalimba artist Yohei Kisanuki through YouTube.  I was particularly impressed by his ease in playing the Treble Chromatic kalimba, and thought that this man may be the best chromatic player in the world.

I invite you to check out some of his kalimba videos, especially if you play chromatic.

09 October 2016

The Freygish Karimba Download, Redux

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

NOSTALGIC, SENSUAL, MYSTERIOUS, SWEET.... THIS KALIMBA PLAYS TRULY UNIQUE MUSIC. THE IMPROVED AND ENHANCED DOWNLOAD IS AVAILABLE NOW. IF YOU HAVE IT ALREADY, UPGRADE IT FOR FREE!

The Freygish Karimba Download, Redux

 

"The Freygish-tuned karimba plays delightful songs, mostly in C harmonic minor.  This instrument brings alive baroque melodies and harmonies, romantic music box waltzes, fiery Middle-Eastern music, and hot Latino cumbia - nostalgic, sensual, mysterious and sweet.  This karimba plays unique music that is not played by any other." (From the back cover of the Freygish karimba download.)

The instrument that you can hear right now, which is playing in the video below, is the Freygish karimba, and the song is "Music Box Farewell," which is the last composition in the Freygish Download.

If you don't know about the Freygish Karimba, come on in and listen to what it does and learn a bit about this wonderful gem of an instrument.

08 November 2016

Karimba Music: Chiwoniso's Song "Chaminuka"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Free tablature for "Chaminuka," for A-17 or F-15 instruments

Karimba Music: Chiwoniso's Song

We have featured the music of the late Chiwoniso before at Kalimba Magic.  Chiwoniso was a talented and charismatic singer and karimba player (which she simply called an mbira). She was also the daughter of Dumisani Maraire (Dumi), who is credited with bringing both the marimba band movement and the karimba to America, starting around 1968.  Dumi was educated about music at the Kwanangoma School of African Music in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe). Chiwoniso grew up traveling with her father and learning African music, between Zimbabwe and Washington state.

I am happy to bring you yet another of Chiwoniso's songs - featuring her gorgeous playing and singing - in tablature for both the A-17 and F-15 karimbas - along with my analysis and speculations on this music.

What you are hearing is the video at the bottom of this article presenting the beginning of a concert given by Chiwoniso. The sound makes it a bit tricky to understand her spoken words, but she is discussing her instrument and its history, and she also introduces the song "Chaminuka", which she named after a great prophet, seer, and healer in the history of the Shona people, who foresaw the coming colonization of their land and always preached love and understanding of each others' differences. (He must have had premonitions of great violence and sadness, things that seem to have been universally experienced when a civilization was invaded and taken over by another.)

08 November 2016

Mbira Song "Chaminuka"

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

New tablature for mbira dzavadzimu, plus tabs for Hugh Tracey Alto and B flat Treble Kalimbas

Mbira Song

Chaminuka was a real person, a renowned Zimbabwean prophet who foretold the coming of white European colonialists.  After his death, he became a popular ancestral spirit to channel.  Mbira dzavadzimu were and still are used in these ceremonies.

While researching Chaminuka for the Chiwoniso article, I learned that there are at least two totally different songs by this name: "Chaminuka" for the karimba by Chiwoniso, and an unrelated song for the mbira dzavadzimu.  The mbira "Chaminuka" is the classic pattern described by Andrew Tracey in his seminal work "The System of the Mbira."  I have notated it in my new (and evolving) mbira tablature, and you can also play it on the Bb Treble kalimba and the Hugh Tracey Alto kalimba.  I supply all three of these tablatures to you for free!

04 November 2016

Panic Attacks and Kalimba Medicine

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

I was with someone while they had a panic attack - fortunately I had my kalimba

Panic Attacks and Kalimba Medicine

I was visiting with a friend the other day when, out of the blue, she started to have a panic attack.

I had something like a panic attack once - it was not a very enjoyable experience.  It seemed like the pressure of the entire world was pressing down on my heart and chest.

I have never been with someone else who was experiencing a panic attack, and I don't know much about them. While I immediately recognized that something was wrong, I didn't really have a clue.  Her breath became shallow and rapid, and a very concerned look came over her face.

Then came the words: "I'm having a panic attack."

27 September 2016

New! Hugh Tracey Alto and Pentatonic Kalimba Package

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Two Great Kalimbas that go Great Together!

New! Hugh Tracey Alto and Pentatonic Kalimba Package

One of my favorite things to do is to play kalimba duets with a close friend.

The Hugh Tracey Alto kalimba is one of the most popular and most capable of all kalimbas.  In many ways, it is the gold standard by which all other kalimbas are measured.  I have written more books and music for the Alto Kalimba than for any other, and very often it is still one of my Altos (I have them in G, C, and F now) that I grab when I walk out the door.

The Hugh Tracey Box Pentatonic is a kalimba that is particularly easy to play, because it has 11 notes that cover the same physical space and the same tonal range as the Alto kalimba's 15 notes - that is, the tines are more spaced out both physically and sonically.  It is easier to pluck the tine you intended; and if you pluck the wrong tine there is much less chance for disaster.

As it happens the Alto and Pentatonic kalimbas complement each other beautifully, and sound great together - and now you can get both of these great kalimbas in an attractive package deal.

07 October 2016

"Vitamin K" and Falling in Love with the African tuned karimba

Written by Leslee Morrison, Posted in News and Announcements

Learning tablature, and a new book, opened up the exciting and beautiful world of traditional African songs. By leslee morrison

For me, learning the African tuned karimba with its repertoire of ancient African music is an  infusion of new excitement and inspiration in my playing. I call it "Vitamin K". The instructions that came along with my new Hugh Tracey 17-note karimba said that it is a beginner's instrument; but with 17 tines instead of the 11 that I was familiar with, and with the additional “buzzers,” I discovered that a lot of new and exciting sound can come out of the karimba, far beyond what I experienced with my other kalimbas.

07 October 2016

La Medicina Meets La Karimba

Written by Klara Wojtkowska, Posted in News and Announcements

Playing Karimba for Ayahuasca Ceremonies – PART 1

La Medicina Meets La Karimba

Learning to play the karimba and facilitating Ceremonies for the local Ayahuasca Church accompanied each other into my life. The karimba brightened my days during a particularly explicit flare-up of an old state of auto-immunity (see the blog post "Thumbing the Karimba at Chronic Pain"). The beads rattled like yapping puppy teeth, wanting to cuddle, and I was delighted. We made noise together. It was a good, wholesome, and healthy noise.

In contrast, the Ayahuasca Ceremonies held by the Church lasted all night, ended at dawn, and were conducted in silence. Under the influence of medicine that expands your senses like so many ear, eye, and nose trumpets, the crickets became cicadas calling to each other across valleys, and coyote howls became gaggles of young giants throwing boulders over cliffs in jest.

07 October 2016

What's New at Kalimba Magic?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Two cool new Hokema Kalimbas, and blond wood Alto Kalimbas

What's New at Kalimba Magic?

We have two interesting new Hokema Kalimbas available: the Hokema Double Sansula, and the Hokema B11, an 11-note kalimba, similar to the Sansula, but in the key of G, and much more adept at making melodies.

We don't yet have video of these kalimbas, but we have some sound recordings within this article, so you can hear what special things they do.

01 October 2016

The Karimba Song "Kakaiwa" - Free Tablature and MP3

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

A karimba song that echoes more complex mbira music structure

The Karimba Song

"Kukaiwa" is one of my favorite songs in our recently published "About 30 Traditional Karimba Songs" book and instructional download.  This arrangement comes to us from kalimba maven Ivodne Galatea, who mentions that CD liner notes indicate that "Kukaiwa" may be traditional, or it may be original to Dumisani Maraire. Mariaire brought the marimba band movement to the western United States in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. He may also be the man who first brought the karimba, which he called mbira nyunga nyunga, to the USA.

 

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

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