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Mark Holdaway

The Brain and the Kalimba – 2

Can you really pay attention to two things at once? You can, but it’s a skill you have to cultivate When I was 24, I finally learned how to talk and play guitar at the same time.  Until then, when playing guitar, I could hear what was being said, and could understand it, but I could not speak or even answer simple questions.  Why could I not speak and play guitar at the same time?  I suppose the “music generation” part of my brain overlapped too much with the “speech generation” part of my brain.  And how, exactly, did I learn to speak and play at the same time?  And

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Blog
Mark Holdaway

The Brain and the Kalimba – 1

They say you can only think of one thing at a time – kalimba requires you to think of two things at a time! When I was 10 years old, my father said “I’ll give you a dollar if you can go 10 seconds without thinking of a brown bear!”  I jumped up from the dinner table, went to stand in the corner, and started chanting “White bear! White bear!” and got a huge laugh from my whole family. But truth be told?  I was actually thinking of brown bears the entire time I was trying to fill my mind with images and words of white bears. Playing kalimba is

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Blog
Mark Holdaway

Practice TIP: Make it Fun!

If playing kalimba is fun, you will want to do it more Archival Practice Tips There are many different ways to practice kalimba, and you should find the way that makes you happy.  Don’t worry about the “right” way, but do search for the way that is right for you. Everybody plays a bit differently, and everyone learns in different ways.  You do want a challenge so that you feel you are getting better, but you don’t often want something that is so challenging that it is not fun. I share some of the ways that I practice kalimba, and rate them by how fun I find them to be.

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Blog
Mark Holdaway

Practice TIP: Explore Your Kalimba

…but you need to do more than just explore Archival Practice Tips Welcome to your kalimba.  Based on the tuning and the note layout of your instrument, your kalimba represents a whole continent of sounds and musical possibilities, and it is well worth exploring it in depth. When I started playing kalimba in 1986, there was no map to this continent.  There was no internet, and seemingly no information about the kalimba.  What did I do?  I explored my kalimba on my own, gradually learning more and more each day I played. Here’s a very valuable tip that can help you in your kalimba explorations. The short form of the tip

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Blog
Mark Holdaway

Kalimba Spirituality

The kalimba journey can reflect your inner spiritual journey Get the Best Ever 8-Note Book   Kalimba music tends, like the concept of Karma, to be cyclic. With Karma, what goes around, comes around, basically. Our job is to improve on what we put into the world, and what we get back will similarly improve. We can study and practice this our whole lives, and hopefully get better and better in all ways. When we are learning to play some new musical piece, our playing is plagued with stumbles and errors. And since kalimba music is generally cyclic, we will have repeating opportunities to improve on what we are studying.

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Blog
Mark Holdaway

Hugh Tracey’s Field Recordings from Africa are Alive and Well at ILAM

The man who created the modern kalimba movement also worked to preserve traditional African music Search the ILAM Music Archive of Hugh Tracey’s Recordings 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

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Blog
Mark Holdaway

Now The Book: 30 Traditional African Karimba Songs

This 72-page book contains the music to about 30 traditional karimba tunes Click to purchase 30 Trad. Karimba Book 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

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Blog
Mark Holdaway

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, on Kalimba

Free Tablature for Alto, Treble and G Chromatic Kalimbas Jesu can be played on Alto, Treble, Bb Treble, D Treble, or Chromatic Kalimbas. The Hugh Tracey kalimba is the work of a lifetime. From 1920 to 1954, musicologist and historian Hugh Tracey honed his experience, appreciation and understanding of African music and musical instruments. Then, in an endeavor to create a new kalimba and one that would be able to appeal to western ears, he built over 100 prototype instruments of various designs which integrated aspects of several traditional kalimbas, from about 1950 to 1954. When he felt he had perfected his design, the Treble kalimba was born, and it

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Blog
Mark Holdaway

Infinite Possibility Within Each Line

One single musical idea can be stretched so far… Imagine the left panel represents a song’s basic part. When you are tired with repeating that, go to a variation, which has the same essential shape as the basic part, with some extra frills, like what you see in the center panel. When you are comfortable doing these, consider building on them still more, as in the right panel. There are essentially infinite variations possible. 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

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