The Story of the Karimba – and Why You Should Get One at 60% Savings

Right now, you can get the 17-Note Hugh Tracey African Tuned Karimba, the 17-Note Karimba + PU, or the 8-Note Goshen Box Student Karimba at 60% off.  Use coupon code Karimba60 now through Feb 3 2024 to get 60% off.

The Tunings?

It is called the African Tuned Karimba because its traditional tuning is in between major and minor – that is, many of the notes are in between western notes. It turns out that African tunings generally had near perfect octaves and near perfect fifths and fourths, but other intervals were up for grabs. And a big part of Hugh Tracey’s work was documenting those African scales.

“Karimba” is the name of one of several traditional African lamellaphones. The African tuning has well-tuned A tines and E tines, and the other intervals are… rich and interesting, and cool in their own way. But hey, we also tune them to western-aligned tunings: A Western (= A major), A minor, G Western (= G major), and G minor. And whatever karimba tuning you end up with, you can probably retune it to any of these tunings, all on your own.

Details of the various tunings can be seen on the Learn to Play Karimba page.

The traditional African tuning is closer to major than minor. So, if you want to play African music, but you also want to play with western-tuned instruments, get your African Tuned Karimba in A major or G major. The G major tuning lets you play with other G kalimbas such as the Alto and Treble kalimbas in their native tunings.

On the other hand, the minor tuning is totally mystical and enchanting. And at 60% off, you can afford to get a major-tuned karimba and a minor-tuned karimba.

The Buzzers?

Some people don’t like the sound of the buzzers. They are easily removed… or we will ship them without buzzers. But the buzzers are an inherent part of the African sound. One story: just as the beauty and majesty of a tall mountain might be obscured by clouds, so the purity of the karimba’s tune is obscured by the buzzing. Another story: the wood represents the earth, the tines are the living things. When the living beings on earth act, the tines sing. But there is no action on earth which escapes the attention of the ancestral spirits, which chime in as the buzzers, in response to every note played, every action taken. So, the buzzers are part of the sound, and part of the mythology.

Andrew Tracey and the Karimba

Why is the African Tuned Karimba important in the kalimba world? In 1960, 24-year-old Andrew Tracey was enlisted in the activity of going through the Bullawayo, Rhodesia township – the slums outside of the city where country-folk moved in search of jobs, modern life, and alcohol. These people brought the old musical instruments with them, and the old songs as well, even though many of these traditions would die. Andrew found Jega Tapera, a karimba player. They became friends, and Andrew got him hired to teach karimba at the Kwanongoma College of African Music. So, a great many people learned the karimba through Kwanongoma – among them, Dumisani Maraire, who would bring the karimba music (he likely coined the name “mbira nyunga nyunga) and mbira music played on marimbas, to the United States starting around 1970. And Jega Tapera’s karimba formed the basis of Andrew Tracey’s theory of the mbira family tree – he hypothesized that the lower row of the karimba was the “original mbira” from 1300 years ago. This means that some of the songs played on the karimba could be that old too.

So, the African Tuned Karimba was indeed important in Andrew Tracey’s life. After the death of his father Hugh Tracey in 1977, Andrew’s leadership pushed AMI to start making the Hugh Tracey African Tuned Karimba, so that Andrew could share with the world this instrument that is most important to him and his understanding of African kalimbas and music.

Meet the Instruments That Are On Sale:

African Tuned Karimba

This is a good instrument to get if you want to connect with the tradition of African kalimba music. At $110 and 60% off, that makes this instrument only $44. You almost can’t afford NOT to take me up on this offer. You can learn more about the karimba and the instructional guides for it here.

African Tuned Karimba with Electronic Pickup

Yes, this is a silly photograph of the Karimba + PU – the pickup has a 1/4 inch jack you can plug into your guitar amplifier, PA system, or effects pedal. That 1/4 inch jack is located at the top of the kalimba… which you cannot see in this photo. You can, however, see the lush mossy fern-covered canyon wall in the highlands of Mt. Lemmon just north of Tucson. I loved to go to beautiful places and take photos of kalimbas. Oh, and you can learn more about the karimba and the instructional guides for it here.


Goshen Box Student Karimba

These 8 notes are 8/9 of the lower row of the African Tuned Karimba. It turns out that a great deal of the Karimba repertoire  can be played in part on these lower notes. Andrew Tracey postulates that this instrument represents the “original mbira” from 1300 years ago. It is an amazing feeling to be playing these traditional songs on this ancient note layout… on a wonderful modern workshop-produced instrument. Learn more about the student karimba. There are books and instructional downloads at the bottom of the page.

Karimba Downloads Available:


Closing in May 2024?

Here is the situation: I sold 1/3 of my inventory in November and December 2023, after I announced Kalimba Magic is closing, and starting to offer big discounts. I am counting on selling 1/3 of my inventory in January/February, and the rest of my inventory in March and April, to close up shop in May 2024. We will keep the shop open for buying downloads for at least a year longer.

We have already run out of some types of kalimba. Selling out in the next 3-4 weeks are:  Bamboo-17 Kalimba, Hugh Tracey Alto+PU, Hugh Tracey Treble+PU, and the celeste models. The chromatics and the karimbas are not yet close to selling out. Hence, I am offering the karimbas at this 60% discount to sell them down. You can expect the Chromatics to go on sale in another week. And the Magadi kalimbas will be on sale bigtime soon.

And if you don’t want to play this game of waiting until the kalimba of your dreams is on sale? Just call me up and make me an offer on that kalimba. I’ll either accept your offer… or tell you why I can’t, and give you a counter offer. (Note: I have very low stocks of Hokema kalimbas and sansulas, and I am replacing my small stock as they sell, so I cannot offer the big discounts on the Hokema kalimbas.)

Blessings! Wishing you the best on this rainy winter day in the Tucson desert.

Mark Holdaway Jan 21 2024

I was a bit short on the story of the karimba. If you want to know more, read up on Andrew Tracey:

Andrew Tracey, Son of Hugh Tracey, Has Left This Earth. But He Left Us His Karimbas.

What alternate tunings for the African Tuned Karimba?

Is it Kalimba, Karimba, or Mbira?

The Evolution of the Karimba

How to Play the African Karimba

How to Play the Student Karimba

Instructional Resources for the African Karimba (mbira nyunga nyunga)

The Student Karimba – A Great Introduction to African Music



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