What are the 5 makes of kalimba that I can purchase from Kalimba Magic?
Hugh Tracey Kalimbas
Hugh Tracey kalimbas were the first kalimbas to be exported from Africa in the late 1950s. Hugh Tracey was a life-long lover of African music, and he devoted tens of thousands of hours to recording and documenting traditional African music south of the Saharan Desert and all the way to South Africa.
Tracey founded the International Library of African Music (ILAM) after he had been doing ethnomusicology work for decades and was in desperate need of a way to keep instruments, recordings, notes and research results organized and accessible both to himself and the rest of the world. That same year (1954) he started AMI, or African Musical Instruments, in order to help fund the building that would house everything that ILAM contained. He had long thought that spreading the kalimba outside of Africa was a great idea. Tracey began to build experimental kalimbas that melded various features of the African instruments he had found in his work, and gave these kalimbas notes tuned to the western diatonic scale with a strictly alternating note layout to facilitate western harmonies. He made over 100 prototype instruments before he settled on designs for the Treble, Alto, and Celeste Treble kalimbas. These are the kalimbas which started the world-wide kalimba craze of the 1960s and 1970s, and that competitors all around the world have imitated.
The Hokema kalimbas are physically delightful to play - their tines are soft and their tones magical. Made in Germany by Peter Hokema, these kalimbas look and feel like their German engineers did everything right. I would recommend any of these kalimbas to beginners because they all make really beautiful music without much understanding or investment of time and effort. This is a lovely attribute...but there is a down side. These instruments are generally not capable of playing very many different songs. Not a bad thing for some folks; you could play sweet lullaby music to your kids in no time, for example.
The sansula is the invention that got Hokema making kalimbas. It has a little kalimba mounted on a frame drum. The kalimba is based on the traditional African karimba, but is tuned to the Japanese Ake Bono scale (in A minor). Don't beat on the frame drum - you will break it! Rather, play a note and then lift the frame drum up and put it back down on a flat surface to hear the "wah-wah" sound. Beautiful and unique.
Catania kalimbas, made in Pennsylvania, are one of the best values around. They come in 6, 8 and 12-Note varieties, board mounted and gourd mounted. The gourd kalimbas have a sound-hole in the front and two small sound-holes on the sides. Catania's workmanship is flawless on both board and gourd mounted kalimbas, and the woods are beautiful.
I recommend the Catania kalimbas to anyone who isn't sure if they want to get into the kalimba. Catania kalimbas might be considered "gateway" kalimbas - not hard to get your head around, and they make nice sounds. The prices won't break the bank and the quality is high. I know several adults and even more children who started out on the Catania 8-note kalimbas and went on to the Catania 12-Note or the Hugh Tracey kalimbas. I still use Catania kalimbas in performances.
Goshen Kalimbas are another of the great American Kalimbas. They offer beautiful, high quality wood work, a good kalimba sound, and they are very reasonably priced. In addition, they have a couple of fairly exotic models - the double bridge Goshen kalimba and the Mate kalimba, made for two people to play.
The Goshen does come with a caveat - the tines are very small and the attachment mechanism is not that strong. While the Goshens stand up fine to normal playing and normal stresses, they must be babied a bit. If children play roughly with the Goshen kalimbas, the tines can be pulled out of place or even straight off the instrument. If you pack a Goshen in your backpack, be careful that the tines do not get caught when you remove the kalimba. So, while they are really fine instruments, beautiful and good sounding, you just need to be careful with them. They will reward you with a fine kalimba experience.
The "2B" kalimbas are perhaps the most mysterious and mystical kalimbas I have seen. Twenty years ago, Thomas Bothe spent about a year traveling around the Far East, and when he returned to Germany, he was a changed man. He started to make musical instruments, and the instruments that people loved the most were his kalimbas. Now his work is better than ever. His kalimbas are charming and wonderful, tiny meditation companions. A pure delight, clever and well made with an innovative design.
Note: the 2B kalimbas are totally out of stock. Unfortunately, Thomas Bothe has had severe allergic reactions to the woods he has been using, and he is attempting to have other people do the woodwork while he builds the kalimbas, but at this point things are uncertain. Please hold this master in the Light, for his creations are unique in the world.
Finely crafted but pricey, the 2B kalimbas make fine gifts. But most people purchase them for themselves. Here is a quote from a man who has bought over a dozen kalimbas from us:
Rejoice on another matter: I just got the last of your padauk 2B/9 in the mail. The sweetest little thing in the world of kalimbas! So small, but so powerful a sound when used with the resonator. I totally love the Bothe kalimbas and still would like to have his 2B9B, especially if he would make me one of padauk or kiaat wood. I respect and admire his artistry. I also wish him the best of health and hope that he will continue to produce wonderful instruments for a long time to come.
- Bela, 2015