Kalimba CU

Kalimba Magic NEWS
Volume 2, Number 5

May 30, 2007

In This Issue:

Kalimba History
Free Kalimba Book with your Kalimba Order
Review of the CD Two Thumbs Up
Upcoming Interviews
Kalimba Services
More Tunings: the Karimba
Kalimba Community
New Kalimba Retailers

Web Article on Kalimba History

Historic Kalimba

Hugh Tracey himself was a true lover of indigenous African music and African musical instruments. However, the instruments his company produced were a blend of African and Western sensibilities. Just where did the Hugh Tracey Kalimba come from, and how is it related to more traditional instruments? How did the kalimba and the mbira come to the rest of the world out of Africa?

Please read this article on kalimba history (a PDF), which I put together for a Kalimba Workshop that I did for music therapists recently. This work draws heavily from Gerhard Kubik's Kalimba Book and Paul F. Berliner's book The Soul of Mbira. Featuring big letters and bigger pictures, you can glance through this in 10-20 minutes.

Get a Free Kalimba Book
when you purchase a Kalimba

From now until June 10, 2007

Kalimba Books

Our kalimba books are the best thing going for learning how to play the Hugh Tracey Alto, Treble, Pentatonic, and 8-Note Kalimbas or the Hugh Tracey Karimba. And from now until June 10, 2007, whenever you order an Alto, Treble, or Pentatonic Kalimba, the African-Tuned Karimba, or the Hugh Tracey 8-Note Kalimba, you will get a free kalimba book to help you on your way to becoming a wonderful kalimba player. This offer is not extended to eBay purchases, only to orders by email, phone, or at the Kalimba Shop on the Internet. Also, this offer is not extended to the Catania 8 or 12 Note kalimbas at this time.

To find out more about our kalimba books, check out the kalimba book press release.

Review of Mark Holdaway's CD Two Thumbs Up

Two Thumbs Up

There is a great website called Rambles.net which publishes thoughtful reviews of new artistic creations such as books and CDs, and they recently reviewed my 2000 CD Two Thumbs Up, Adventure on the African Thumb Piano. Rambles seems to pay equal attention to big name media releases and independent media releases, and it is a valuable and respected voice on the internet.

I feel that Two Thumbs Up never got the attention it deserved, in large part because I didn't do anything with it. I did send it out to about 40 CD Publishers, and the few folks at these places who listened to the music were impressed, but nobody thought this music fit within their "stylistic niche." Basically, the part of the music industry that connected with Two Thumbs Up threw back a big question mark in my lap, and I dropped it on the floor. I never reproduced this CD other than burning a few copies on my computer every now and then.

Yet, there were a few people who bought my CD and listened to it almost every day for years. A few of them would not let go of it, and kept after me to do something with this music. Last year, I finally got a regular production run of my first kalimba CD, and it feels like the CD has been born again.

Here is the Rambles Review by Sarah Meader:

Mark Holdaway
Two Thumbs Up:
Adventures on the African Thumb Piano
(self-produced, 2000)

It is a crying shame that instrumentals don't normally get popular airplay, unless loaded down with electric manipulation or attached to a few specific names and the hideous "adult contemporary" label.

That single sad fact means Mark Holdaway's Two Thumbs Up: Adventures on the African Thumb Piano probably won't get heard by any but a few very proactive world music enthusiasts. That's a loss for the potential audience that won't get to hear some highly unusual and potent music, and it's a loss for composer and performer Holdaway, who would doubtless like more fans. But most of all it's a loss for the kalimba, the African thumb piano, because this CD should by all rights spark a renaissance in its popularity.

Every note of the kalimba resonates with a rare focus that highlights the integrity of the individual tune and calls hidden depths out of the most familiar pieces. The kalimba turns "Blowin' in the Wind" into a message from alien shores, whistled across unknown distance. It captures the unstoppable energy of a "Growing Flower" and the choir of voices to be heard when you "Listen to the Night." Metallic and resonant, the kalimba can create the illusion of music without guidance, adding wildness to "Jungle Wrap" and "Shalom." It's sweet, powerful magic, and it can't be made with anything but the kalimba.

There's something about the kalimba, at least in Holdaway's hands, that creates the feel of a sacred moment without disturbing the everyday. It's a flexible meditation perfect for a family dinner or a nightmare commute. Two Thumbs Up is soothing on a bad day, uplifting on a good day, and just plain beautiful to hear.

by Sarah Meador
5 May 2007

You can listen to a few tracks from Two Thumbs Up, or purchase the CD at The Kalimba Shop.

Upcoming Interviews

The interview takes a break

Now I understand why Click and Clack give "the puzzler" a break every summer. But as soon as we are able, we'll have some very interesting interviews here in the Newsletter, including Andrew Tracey (one of Hugh Tracey's sons and former director of the International Library of African Music); a teacher who uses the kalimba with children in the school; and a shaman who uses the kalimba as a touchstone in spiritual journeying.

More about the New Kalimba Services

So you've got a kalimba, and you need to be able to use it in an upcoming performance, but you aren't sure what to do. The Kalimba Coach can help.

Last month, Kalimba Magic introduced two new Kalimba Services: the Kalimba Doctor, to help you manipulate or improve the physical characteristics of your kalimba, especially its tuning, and the Kalimba Coach, designed to help you with the details of playing the kalimba music you need to play, for whatever reason you have to play it.

This month, we have a wonderful example of the Kalimba Coach in action. The Hamilton Urban Theatre, a Shakespeare Company in Hamilton, ON, Canada, recently obtained a Hugh Tracey kalimba for a production of The Tempest. Mr. Shakespeare provided the words to the song, one of the actors, a musician, put the words to music, and I wrote a playable kalimba part to go with the music the actors will be singing. A seamless collaboration? You can see for yourself in July 2007.

Customer Service for Special Orders

We can help you get exactly what you need, and we can help you understand exactly what you are getting.

Often, I run into people who are purchasing several kalimbas for a special project. Some folks want two or more kalimbas that are tuned in similar tunings so they can play together in an ensemble. Other folks are looking for several kalimbas to span a variety of keys to play with several different songs.

Kalimba Magic can help you in more ways than one! At Kalimba Magic, we are first and foremost musicians who understand music, understand the kalimba, and understand how to use the kalimba creatively in diverse musical settings. We can recommend different tunings that will work with the various kalimbas. We can even work with you to invent a tuning. We'll produce smart graphics showing you how the different kalimbas are tuned, and we can even send you a recording of how the kalimbas sound in that tuning. And we'll go over all of this before we send your kalimbas out, so you can understand exactly what you are getting and how it will work with whatever else you have going on. And not to be forgotten: if you are ordering two, three, or more kalimbas, we can usually work to get you a special price that will make you happy you didn't buy the kalimbas one at a time.

At Kalimba Magic, we aren't just some guys selling you imported merchandise. We are expert kalimba players ourselves, and we sell kalimba know-how and kalimba excitement.

Smooth Your Kalimba Tines?

Glen Davis will make your kalimba play like butter.

A general problem with many inexpensive kalimbas is that their tines hurt your thumbs when you play. Tines that are stiff and thick, or tines that have metal burrs can quickly erode your thumb nails and even cause thumb pain. The tines on the Hugh Tracey and Catania kalimbas are pretty smooth, but some people are more sensative to the minor inconsistencies of the tines.

My kalimba friend Glen Davis has been taking extra time at setting up his own kalimbas. I call him an "ergonomic genious," because he figures out exactly what he needs to do to optimize the way his body interacts with his kalimbas. Mainly, Glen files down the tips of the tines, with special emphasis on the side of the tines closer to the center to facilitate outward-moving glissandos. After playing a kalimba which Glen has set up, you may never want to go back to a standard kalimba.

Glen charges $50 for this service (ie, he doesn't live in a third world country). If you are sending a kalimba you own to Kalimba Magic for this service, please send $60 to cover the cost of return shipping. Also, when you purchase a new kalimba, allow one extra week for this service.

More Tunings: The Karimba

African, A Western, G Western, G Blues, G minor


In Africa, it has been common in the last several decades for players of traditional instruments to retune their mbiras or kalimbas in new and different ways to change the songs the instruments play. The songs are played with the same key strokes, but the sound can be profoundly different as the tines are tuned differently.

The Hugh Tracey Karimba is now available in several different tunings:

Now, when you purchase the Hugh Tracey Karimba from Kalimba Magic, we give you the option of getting your new karimba precision-tuned to any of these keys at no extra charge. Or, if you have invented your own tuning, we can help you with that as well.

The Kalimba Community

Kalimbas on Tiles

Andy Robinson Kalimba Jam in San Diego: A gathering of San Diego kalimba enthusiasts - no experience necessary, just a willingness to explore the African thumb piano!

Bring your kalimba, or borrow one of ours! Saturday, June 2, 11 a.m. at Montezuma Neighborhood Park, 4929 Catoctin Dr. (1/12 blocks west of Montezuma Blvd.), San Diego, CA 92115.

Bring some lunch (no alcohol) and let's play music! Email me at: Robinsong5@aol.com for more information!

Check out the kalimbas created by R.P. Collier. These are art! Among his influences, R.P. Collier cites the field recordings of Hugh Tracey.

I have sold kalimbas to several Story Tellers recently. If you are a story teller who uses the kalimba, good for you! Send me a sample of what you do. Or, if you are a Story Teller who doesn't use the kalimba, you might want to think about getting a kalimba!

New Kalimba retailers

In the Dallas, TX area:

Craig's Music Hut
207 W. Main St. #C
Grand Prairie, TX 75050
(972) 237-9106

In Seattle, Washington:

Johns Music
4501 Interlake N. #9
Seattle, Wa. 98103
(800) 473-5194

A percussion store in Sweden is now carrying Mark Holdaway's CDs. They also sell the Hugh Tracey Kalimbas. Remember to ask them about the Kalimba Magic instructional books:

Rythm Works!
Bendoula AB
Nissastigen 5
S-128 41 Bagarmossen
phone: 0046-(0)8-649 91 01

View the Kalimba Retailer's List

If you are looking to become a retailer of Hugh Tracey Kalimbas, Kalimba Magic instructional books, or kalimba CDs, please contact Mark Holdaway. Several people have recently contacted me about retail settings based upon private personal and community based interactions, rather than the traditional retail store model. If you have a vision, share it with me! My mission is to spread the joy and magic of this wonderful instrument, and our paths might work together.

If you have any questions, or if you have suggestions for future newsletter topics or Tip Of The Day ideas, please share them with me! -Mark

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