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!

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.

When we transfer "Kuzanga" to the African karimba, with 17 notes (it actually has only 13 unique notes, as there are two redundant pairs), the song has some gaps - that is, notes that are required on the mbira, but just aren't there on the karimba.  So, we fill in those gaps with other notes that do work - in most cases, we use the note that was missing, but played an octave higher or lower.  In some cases we use the 5th or 3rd of the chord that is being played at that instant.

Kuzanga Karimba

Above is the tablature for the basic part and the third variation (variations 1 and 2, my favorite variations, are not possible because they require notes that go above the karimba's range. You can, however, play them on the Bb Treble kalimba, which does have those extra high notes).  This song was not designed for this instrument, so some of the motions will not be the most natural.  About feeling unnatural... when I approach an mbira song on the karimba (such as "Karige Mombe" or "Mahororo"), I find the tablature and the sound recording will get me started OK, and that yes it will feel a bit awkward, and then I eventually break through and discover a slightly different way of playing the song that makes it sound good and feel much better.  I haven't done this work yet on "Kuzanga," but I thought I would mention this process in case it helps you to progress in this song.

The media player below will show you how this tablature sounds.  It is not as good as the mbira, because the karimba is missing a lot of the notes the mbira has, but you can still play something that sounds uniquely African and quite beautiful. 

About the Author

Mark Holdaway

Mark Holdaway

Mark Holdaway has been playing kalimba for over 30 years.  He invented his kalimba tablature in 2004, and has been writing books and instructional materials for kalimba ever since.  His business, Kalimba Magic, is based on the simple proposition that the kalimba is a real musical instrument capable of greatness.  Mark's kalimba books are a down payment on this proposition.

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