Nadi Qamar and his “Mama-Likembi” Kalimba from the 1970s

Ready to Have Your Kalimba Mind Blown?

Nadi Qamar was an African American who pioneered the use of neo-traditional Kalimba in the 1960s and 1970s.

A jazz pianist by training, Nadi made a fantastic album of kalimba music on an instrument of his own design, the “Mama Likembi,” in his own tuning. Listen to it through the YouTube embed above. The tuning is a Middle-Eastern sort of tuning. Sometimes he plays it more like a pentatonic kalimba. Since his instrument was an amalgam of several different kalimbas, they may have had different tunings?

Neo-Traditional Kalimba?

By neo-traditional, I mean that even though the instrument was not a traditional kalimba in a traditional kalimba tuning, Nadi was creating his own tradition that symbolically points back to the rich African musical traditions that he had been cut off from through his ancestors’ forcible patriation to America through the institution of slavery. Jazz itself is like a new-traditional musical form, created out of the new American Black experience, coming out of slavery, coming out of Jim Crow and oppression, into a new American awareness that Black musicians can now be the arbiters of “What is Cool”.

This music? If you haven’t listened to it yet, do so now.

Enchanting. Embracing. Mystifying. Worth listening to, more than once.

When you play the YouTube video in FULL SCREEN MODE, the image of the liner notes is sufficient resolution to read them. The liner notes are visible starting at 16:40 in the video. Do your own research! Form your own opinions!

Nadi created the Mama Likembi from several different lamellophones of his own design, copying African instruments. Being a skilled piano player, he translated his technique to the Mama Likembi and use eight fingers.

Learn More About Nadi Qamar

You can learn more about Nadi on this German Wikipedia Page, and from his Obituary.  He lived to the age of 103 and died in the era of Covid.

He had a very interesting life. Apart from being an astounding human being, his work with the kalimba certainly took him to wonderful places.

Now, there are so many people picking up the kalimba. I ask that you hold a vision of Nadi in your mind, and what he did with the kalimba, to see what a life with kalimba can be.


Related Posts

Search Blog


Sign up for our newsletter and free resources with your email address:

We pinky promise not to spam you and to only send good stuff.

Recent posts


Get an expert answer to your kalimba question!