Articles tagged with: Karimba

11 March 2017

Ferrying Between Worlds

Written by Klara Wojtkowska, Posted in News and Announcements

Playing Karimba for the Dying

Ferrying Between Worlds

Klara Wojtkowska, an accomplished musician and playwright among many other things, in a poetic and poignant essay expresses how profound an experience it was for her to play karimba for someone she loved, helping them make the transition between this world and whatever lays beyond.

When I went to Poland last summer, I planned to go for a friend’s wedding. I did not imagine that God might be pulling me by the hair to carry a karimba and a song across the ocean to my beloved Aunt, who did not want to be dying, but was doing just that.

14 November 2016

The System of the Mbira - Part 1

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

The chords and phrase structure behind most mbira music

The System of the Mbira - Part 1

Most "primitive" music is so-called "two-phrase" music - basically a call phrase and a response phrase, or a question and an answer.  This simple musical form exists across cultures, in nursery rhymes, and in basic karimba music.

Sometime between 600 and 1000 years ago in the Zambezi Valley of southeastern Africa - let's suppose during the peak of the "Great Zimbabwe" civilization - an incredible innovation occurred: that primal two-phrase tune pattern evolved into a "four-phrase" pattern.  This innovation was momentous. Doubling the length of the original two-phrase cycle had the effect of expanding the possibilities of the music by far more than a factor of two. This four-phrase musical structure is the essence of the sound of the mbira. It is one of the pinnacles of African music, culture and intellect. 

In this post I will impart my conceptualization of an essential African musical form to you, and will start with the basic chord progression common to a lot of four-phrase mbira music. This harmonic understanding, which can be applied to any instrument, will be demonstrated on guitar in the keys of G and A.

12 December 2016

The System of the Mbira - Part 2

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

You can start at different points in the cycle to make different songs

The System of the Mbira - Part 2

Sometime between 600 and 1000 years ago in the Zambezi Valley of southeastern Africa, something amazing happened - four-phrase mbira music was born.  This revolutionized the music that had been played for a very long time, and greatly increased its sophistication, sort of like going from nursery songs to Pachelbel's Canon.

The new musical structure was complex enough to support a wide range of songs.  In fact, new songs in this vein continue to be created today. There is basically an infinite supply of mbira-type music.

In this post we begin analyzing how new songs can be created within this four-phrase system. One way is to start the song at different places in the cycle.  We show you two common places to start, and illustrate the differences in the music.

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?

01 December 2016

New Kalimbas from Roots Production in France

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

New Kalimbas from Roots Production in France

Andrew Masters of Roots Production in France has been making kalimbas for over 20 years.  His designs are unique - they echo some rustic but refined instruments made in Africa with their handmade, very smooth tines.  In fact, these may be the sweetest tines of all to play on.

And once you play the tines, the elliptical metal sardine-can resonator body rings ever so sweetly.  Yes, these kalimbas are actually built from sardine cans!  Wow!

Kalimba Magic is very happy to carry these kalimbas, with a limited shipment planned for early 2017, and you can preorder one now.

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.)

11 October 2016

TIP: Playing "Mahororo" on the African Karimba - 5 / 5

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

This traditional mbira song transfers well to karimba

TIP: Playing

"Mahororo" is usually played on the mbira dzavadzimu (commonly called the mbira), and is one of the classic songs that fit the chord progression described by Andrew Tracey in his seminal 1973 paper "The System of the Mbira" which studies in depth the ages-old mbira playing of the peoples he and his father Hugh studied for decades. This implies that "Mahororo" is probably one of those "old songs" - meaning it may be something like 500 - 800 years old.

Ivodne Galatea pointed out that it could be played on the karimba. With several arrangements of "Mahororo" under my belt, I am happy to present here the tablature for my latest and best arrangement of the song, which you can follow on YouTube.

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.

 

04 October 2016

TIP: Playing "Mahororo" on the African Karimba - 4 / 5

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

This traditional mbira song transfers well to karimba

TIP: Playing

"Mahororo" is usually played on the mbira dzavadzimu (commonly called the mbira), and is one of the classic songs that fit the chord progression described by Andrew Tracey in his seminal 1973 paper "The System of the Mbira" which studies in depth the ages-old mbira playing of the peoples he and his father Hugh studied for decades . This implies that "Mahororo" is probably one of those "old songs" - meaning it may be something like 500 - 800 years old.

Ivodne Galatea pointed out that it could be played on the karimba. With several arrangements of "Mahororo" under my belt, I am happy to present here the tablature for my latest and best arrangement of the song, which you can follow on YouTube.

30 September 2016

TIP:Technique: Playing with the right index finger - 3

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Yes, but what if you don't feel like using your right index finger? You can use the thumb slide-off technique!

TIP:Technique: Playing with the right index finger - 3

I find the addition of the right index finger to the two thumbs to be essential to playing African music, and in expanding the capabilities of kalimbas in general.  However, it typically feels unnatural at first, no matter which approach you take.  A great many people resist using their (non-thumb) fingers on these instruments.

If you just don't want to (or cannot) use a forefinger, what are you to do?

27 September 2016

TIP: Playing "Mahororo" on the African Karimba - 3 / 5

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

This traditional mbira song transfers well to karimba

TIP: Playing

"Mahororo" is usually played on the mbira dzavadzimu (commonly called the mbira), and is one of the classic songs that fit the chord progression described by Andrew Tracey in his seminal 1973 paper "The System of the Mbira" which studies in depth the ages-old mbira playing of the peoples he and his father Hugh studied for decades . This implies that "Mahororo" is probably one of those "old songs" - meaning it may be something like 500 - 800 years old.

Ivodne Galatea pointed out that it could be played on the karimba. With several arrangements of "Mahororo" under my belt, I am happy to present here the tablature for my latest and best arrangement of the song, which you can follow on YouTube.

 

16 September 2016

Practice TIP: Experiment with Changing Volume Levels

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Playing strong can help you learn; playing softly can help you discover the "feel" of the music

Practice TIP:  Experiment with Changing Volume Levels

Don't you hate all those internet ads that start with "Try this one weird trick" and then promise that if you do, it will change your life in a profound way?

Well, I have something for you that may seem like a weird trick, but it is really a great little tool that indeed has had a profound effect on my own kalimba, karimba, and mbira playing.

People tend to play kalimba music with every note at the same volume level.  But I can point to three big benefits you can get from changing up the volume level in your kalimba playing. 

22 September 2016

TIP:Technique: Playing with the right index finger - 2

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

The "karimba style" use of the right index finger puts it over the top of a tine, plucking down

TIP:Technique: Playing with the right index finger - 2

How do you play the kalimba?  Mainly, you use your two thumbs, but you should not overlook the fingers.  It turns out there are multiple ways to use the right index finger, and you can adapt these techniques to a wide variety of kalimbas.

20 September 2016

TIP: Playing "Mahororo" on the African Karimba - 2 / 5

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

This traditional mbira song transfers well to karimba

TIP: Playing

"Mahororo" is usually played on the mbira dzavadzimu (commonly called the mbira), and is one of the classic songs that fit the chord progression described by Andrew Tracey in his seminal 1973 paper "The System of the Mbira" which studies in depth the ages-old mbira playing of the peoples he and his father Hugh studied for decades . This implies that "Mahororo" is probably one of those "old songs" - meaning it may be something like 500 - 800 years old.

Ivodne Galatea pointed out that it could be played on the karimba. With several arrangements of "Mahororo" under my belt, I am happy to present here the tablature for my latest and best arrangement of the song, which you can follow on YouTube.

15 September 2016

TIP:Technique: Playing with the right index finger - 1

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

The "mbira style" use of the right index finger puts it under the tine, flicking upward

TIP:Technique: Playing with the right index finger - 1

How do you play the kalimba? It's a thumb piano, so mainly you use your two thumbs!  The Brazilian masters like to use four or six fingers, playing the kalimba as it sits in their lap - but I don't teach that style. That's because my kalimba playing is a lot about movement of the body while playing, and if you hold the kalimba in your hands and play with your thumbs, you can get up and walk, run, or dance as you play.  Or at the very least, just move around a bit with the music.

The right index finger, however, is a special case, part of the venerable African mbira and karimba traditions, and we will consider it right now.

13 September 2016

TIP: Playing "Mahororo" on the African Karimba - 1 / 5

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

This traditional mbira song transfers well to karimba

TIP: Playing

"Mahororo" is usually played on the mbira dzavadzimu (commonly called the mbira), and is one of the classic songs that fit the chord progression described by Andrew Tracey in his seminal 1973 paper "The System of the Mbira" which studies in depth the ages-old mbira playing of the peoples he and his father Hugh studied for decades . This implies that "Mahororo" is probably one of those "old songs" - meaning it may be something like 500 - 800 years old.

Ivodne Galatea pointed out that it could be played on the karimba. With several arrangements of "Mahororo" under my belt, I am happy to present here the tablature for my latest and best arrangement of the song, which you can follow on YouTube.

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 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.

01 July 2016

Infinite Possibility Within Each Line

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

One single musical idea can be stretched so far...

Infinite Possibility Within Each Line

When I play kalimba by myself, I usually go pretty deep. It's like meditation, only more playful. After playing for 20 or 30 minutes, I am usually in a very peaceful state. I seem to look within while I play, and when I stop playing, I find that I don't quite focus on anything in this physical world. It usually takes me five or ten minutes to re-acclimatize to the world. WARNING: Do not operate heavy machinery while playing kalimba! (So far, there is not a call to raise the legal age for kalimba playing to 21.)

Playing kalimba with someone else can also be a very creative experience, and here I will discuss doing that very thing, using a kalimba song that is historically important to explain and illustrate. 

24 May 2016

What's New at Kalimba Magic and the Kalimba World?

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

Think globally and skype with us - act locally and learn with us

What's New at Kalimba Magic and the Kalimba World?

I've been playing with statistics lately, and I've learned some interesting things. Kalimba Magic has a huge international foot print.  Last month, about 50% of our sales went overseas.  We shipped to Japan, China, Australia, Europe, South America, and even to that friendly country to the north - Canada.  But we have been almost invisible in my own hometown of Tucson; and less than one half of one percent of all my kalimba sales are to people here in Arizona.

I am working to change that.  I am reaching out to my neighbors, friends, and community here in Tucson, as well as farther out across the world.  I am doing what I can to spread the word about the kalimba, not just over the internet, but from one heart to another.  I invite you to read about how I am reaching out to both the local and the international kalimba communities.

07 August 2016

TIP: Playing the African Karimba - "Kuzanga"!

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in Tips

Here is the mbira song "Kuzanga," translated onto the karimba - get the tablature for free!

TIP: Playing the African Karimba -

I have been learning to play "Kuzanga" on the mbira, a 24-note traditional African lamellaphone that in my mind represents one of the pinnacles of ancient African ingenuity and art. 

I realized earlier today: it should be possible to play "Kuzanga" on the African karimba - and it is!  Included here, for your benefit, is tablature of "Kuzanga" for the karimba, for free!  Enjoy.

27 April 2016

New Tip Series: Exploring Sansula Tunings

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

What is a tuning? Why do you retune? How do you retune?

New Tip Series: Exploring Sansula Tunings

The sansula is a great instrument for so many reasons: its lush tone, beautiful craftsmanship, the smooth metal tine tips, the amazing wah-like effects it produces totally acoustically, its simple 9-note layout with staggered tines, and its intuitive tuning that literally transforms nearly-random thumb twiddling into actual music.

However, the same tuning that is geared toward instant success turns out to be very limiting. I realized this early on, but I so loved the tone and feel of the sansula; I wanted to do more with it. So I started to invent sansula tunings, each prescribing its own universe of sound and musical possibilities.

The series of tips that this blog post introduces is my guide to you on the subject of sansula tunings - what tunings we offer, what they sound like, and what instructional resources are available for each. May this guide serve you well!

13 April 2016

New Tip Series for Three Exotic Pentatonic Tunings

Written by Mark Holdaway, Posted in News and Announcements

How to understand a new tuning, and how to make sense of the tuning charts

New Tip Series for Three Exotic Pentatonic Tunings

The pentatonic scales have a great power, related to the fact that playing them does not require as much thought as other scales demand. They have fewer notes, and they are simpler instruments, both physically (with more space between adjacent tines) and intellectually. However, there are some important basic things that you should know about pentatonic scales, and these little bits of wisdom are applicable to almost any scale at all.

In other words, learn the lessons these simple scales have to teach, and you can take those lessons to any kalimba and any tuning you want.

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