My Journey With the Karimba

Quincy Nichols Shares How the Karimba Has Become His Spiritual Companion

This is the very first Bb Treble kalimba I made about 10 years ago

[Editor’s note: Quincy is a student of the African karimba, and he writes poetically and eloquently here, celebrating his experience playing the instrument.]

The karimba is my friend… a patient, patient friend. There is wisdom in the karimba – it’s an old friend helping to lead me back to myself.

It is a layered instrument, helping me to uncover and express thoughts, feelings, emotions, and dreams I’ve hidden from myself. As an aspiring musician and creative person, the African karimba has helped me to find the courage to express myself.


The karimba for me is a powerful instrument. It is playful and kind, patient and loyal, especially when I am sad or feeling lonely. I feel as if the karimba is playing me, putting me back in tune, showing me the depth and complexity within my soul, within my heart.

This instrument does not lie, and has the power to reveal truth. My truth.
I am still so amazed as the musical mantra goes deeper and deeper, revealing the snags and hiccups, revealing to me where I am out of tune. It’s a spiral, sometimes inward, sometimes outward, as the karimba’s buzzers seem to dance to their own beat. The complexity of simple notes reveals subtle sounds and spaces, like the space between letters, or that space between one breath and another.

Things come up. I’ve received healing, comfort, and understanding beyond what words are able to offer. Yet even words, a song, a voice, a rising unexpectedly, from the depths, a tuning of the emotions, a tuning of the heart.

While playful and kind, I find the karimba also to be authentic and powerful, continually inviting me to find my own voice, my own music.

It’s the union of two sides – left and right, front and back.
Maybe that’s four sides.

Creative, playful.

Those times when I’ve accidentally played an incorrect note, I feel it’s the karimba’s way of inviting me to do something new, to try something different, to break out, to take a journey, create a new neural pathway, a new connection.

I smile as I write this, as I see that creative inspiration fill into my own life.  Taking a different route on my bicycle, using new words, finding different movements. This instrument is multi-faceted, inviting me to dance, sing, play, and connect.  To connect with my heritage, my culture. The karimba is, I say, a spiritual instrument. A tool and a friend, an ally accompanying me on a journey into myself.

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