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Mark Holdaway

What Makes a Great Kalimba Tuning?

Each new kalimba tuning is a different universe of possibilities. Some of those alternative musical universes are very similar to one another. But some tunings present totally different music unlike what the other tunings can play. A few times, I have imagined a tuning, and then gone and fiddled with my kalimba until it played what I imagined. But most great tunings are discovered rather than invented. By this, I mean that maybe you came up with that tuning by accident, and then you discover what that tuning can do! The B11 Kalimba is a great platform for new alternative tunings. This video focuses on the lessons taught by four

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Blog
Mark Holdaway

African Karimba Songs on the 17-Note Kalimba in C

The PDF eBook “33  Intermediate Songs for 17-Note Kalimba in C” has a bunch of African music. For example, Bustu MTandari: These are mostly songs from the tradition of the Karimba, or mbira nyunga nyunga. The notes of the Karimba are a subset of the notes on the 17-Note Kalimba, so anything you can play on the Karimba can also be played on the 17-Note in C. And by the way, “kalimba” and “karimba” are two different instruments. Read here if you don’t know this: Is it Kalimba, Karimba, or Mbira? It turns out the traditional African music, when played on the typical modern kalimba, is actually a bit tricky

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Blog
Mark Holdaway

Maurice White’s “Evil Tuning” – Using African Sensibilities in Pop Music

Maurice White of the R&B/Funk/Pop band “Earth, Wind & Fire” came out of Chicago at the same time the AfroHarp was being made. He surely held an AfroHarp in his hands. But Maurice White was following the lead of  his kalimba mentor, Phil Cohran. Cohran had an African-made pentatonic-tuned kalimba. Unlike the AfroHarp or the karimba, Cohran’s kalimba had the tines all on the same level. That speaks to the diversity of traditional kalimbas in Africa. Maurice White couldn’t find a traditional African-made instrument like Cohran’s. Instead, he found the Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba, in a diatonic “Do Re Mi fa So La Ti Do” tuning. Maurice quickly retuned the

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Mark Holdaway

African Music on the 10-Note Kalimba in C

A great many people now own kalimbas made in China.  These kalimbas apparently were created with an intent to play western pop songs. However, you can also play traditional African music on them… and I will show you how. It turns out there is a traditional 8-Note karimba that is particularly important in the evolutionary tree of African kalimbas. It is thought to be the original tuning, the grandmother of the African-tuned Karimba and the mbira dzavadzimu. I call it the Student Karimba and Andrew Tracey, Hugh Tracey’s son, called it the  “Original Mbira”. The notes on this 8-Note instrument are arranged differently than the new 10-Note kalimbas, but the

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Mark Holdaway

My Favorite Tuning from 70s Afropop star Francis Bebey’s Kalimbas

Look up Francis Bebey on YouTube. He made great, diverse, charismatic groove-based music in Cameroon in the 1970s. Many of his songs featured his kalimba playing. He also played guitar, and sang. But often, he led his band with kalimba and singing. To my ear, each of Francis Bebey’s kalimba songs used a different kalimba tuning. (He was the opposite of Maurice White, who seemed to use the same tuning on all of his songs.) My take on that: each of Francis Bebey’s kalimbas had a different tuning, and each played different music. Each of his kalimbas had a different song. One of my favorite Fancis Bebey songs is “Breaths”,

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Mark Holdaway

The AfroHarp – Another Neo-African Kalimba in 1970 American Culture

In the 1970s, Black Pride was a huge thing. And it should be now too. But I think most Black people have done their part. Now, it is the White people who need to appreciate and understand Black Pride, without fear and without offense. I for one understand that when I appreciate the beauty of African culture, I find it very hard to be racist or to put Black people down categorically. Kalimba culture is something that can lift up Black people, can lift up non-Black understanding and an appreciation of Black culture, and can certainly make the world a better place. The rich cultural diversity of Africa was torn

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Blog
Mark Holdaway

Colorful Kalimba Bags from Africa

These bags are hand made by Louise Sloman-Fuller of Grahamstown, South Africa. For many years, she worked for African Musical Instruments, the makers of the Hugh Tracey Kalimbas. Now, she supports herself with her hand crafts. And these hand crafts are particularly useful for kalimba players. Small quilted bags hold one Hugh Tracey Kalimba. You can order the specific one you want, and we’ll remove it’s number from the product photo. Small budget bags also hold one Hugh Tracey Kalimba. Medium quilted bags hold two Hugh Tracey Kalimbas. Oh, there are only two of these left, and they both look pretty cool to me. Medium Budget Bags Large Quilted Bags

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Blog
Mark Holdaway

Where is Your Kalimba Made? The Hugh Tracey Kalimba is from Africa

The recent kalimba craze has been fueled by a huge influx of Chinese-made kalimbas over the last 4 years. These kalimbas have made so extreme a mark on the world that a great many people incorrectly believe the kalimba to be a Chinese instrument. Nope! The earliest kalimbas were made in Central Africa, around present-day Cameroon, about 3000 years ago. The first metal-tined instruments were made about 1300 years ago, in present-day Zimbabwe. And, since 1954, the Hugh Tracey kalimbas have been made in South Africa. Please, I invite you to meet the team of South African workers at African Musical Instruments (AMI) in Grahamstown, South Africa. Vuyolethu (Vuyo) Ntleki

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Blog
Mark Holdaway

New! The Magadi Olive-9 Kalimba

The Olive-9 is a very interesting kalimba. It fits beautifully in your hands. The wood body has a resonant sound chamber routed into it, providing an expressive wah. The pentatonic tuning is very liberating – it plays in A minor, C major, and a neutral D (neither major nor minor – see the video tab to experience this one). This tuning is great for jamming! Perhaps the best part of the Olive-9 is its price tag. This one will take you to different places than your typical kalimba, and the journey is definitely worth your time and effort. The Olive-9, in the A minor pentatonic scale, is great for jamming.

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