Kalimba Magic Contest of the Month

Thank you to everyone who sent in great ideas for the Kalimba Magic Contest! You will be getting a CD in the mail shortly. (If you don't, send me an email to nudge me into action!) Below I am listing all the terrific ideas that rolled in that we judged as most useful or that would be of most interest to the general kalimba community AND that are within our capabilities here at Kalimba Magic. So this is a heads up for what is coming!

Then we reveal the Kalimba Magic Contest for FEBRUARY...

Upcoming Contest Ideas

Andrew Hawkins suggests that we make a contest that gives equal opportunities to experienced players and beginners alike - such as a competition where people are invited to suggest features or sections they would like to see on the Kalimba Magic website or newsletter. Of course, the winning suggestions will be the great ideas that we are able to implement. For example, suggesting an interview with Maurice White—likely the most famous kalimba player—is a great idea, but we've been trying to do that for some time without success.

Andy Robinson came up with the idea of a "kalimba haiku." Andy writes:

Hi Mark, Happy new year to you. My first idea for a kalimba contest would be to record a "kalimba haiku." The idea of saying more with less in music always appeals to me, although it takes discipline and the ability to check your ego at the door. How about if asking people to write and record a short solo kalimba piece following the syllable parameters for Japanese haiku: the first musical phrase would be 5 syllables, the next would be 7 syllables, and the third and final phrase would be 5 again.

Each piece should be appropriately titled to create a mood or evocative musical "picture" in the listener's mind. Any tuning and any type of kalimba should be accepted, and recording technique shouldn't matter, although it goes without saying that the cleaner a recording is, the easier it usually is for a listener to get into the music, especially with a quiet instrument like the kalimba.

In my mind's ear, I can hear the Sansula playing a haiku... COOL idea! —MH

Mark Shelton suggests that we use the electric kalimba through a looping pedal. I think a video of someone using the looping pedal would be the thing, so we can all get an idea of how to do this.

Glen Davis Photo
Photo by Glen Davis

Barb DeGrose has some dogs that love to listen to the kalimba. They sit up and take notice when she plays. After batting it around, we came to the idea of photos of kalimbas with animals or kalimbas in nature. Of course, we would get Glen Davis, the king of kalimba-nature photography, to be the judge.

Kalimba Magic will be putting together a calendar with photos of kalimbas in nature. While Glen has the photography job, he might select some of the photos you send in to this contest to be in the calendar. (I am so looking forward to putting the calendar together—I've already started looking up birthdays of famous kalimba people.)

Kevin Keith, who bought kalimbas from me outside of Silver City, NM, on the side of the highway back in 2005 when Kalimba Magic was only a few months old, writes about his own experience with kalimbas and contests:

Last fall, I entered a hastily-written song into a contest for the Gila River Festival. The song had to be about the river. It didn't win but hey, I had a song with harmony, melody and some working lyrics. With the deadline out of the way, I was able to think about some other instrumentation besides the guitar. One I chose was the kalimba because I thought it had a fluid sound like gurgling water that would be appropriate to the theme. I also chose flute for its airy quality. The song was in the key of e flat ( on the guitar, a DADGAD tuning capoed to the 3rd fret). I made a bamboo flute in e flat and recorded a simple two part harmony. With the alto kalimba, I changed the tuning to e flat (or Cm, depending on how you look at it). The kalimba part melded well with the flute parts to satisfying effect. Here's the tuning starting on the far left.

        F                                  G
          D                              Eb
             Bb                        C
                G                    Ab
                  Eb               F
                     C          D
                        Ab   Bb

Basically, I just went through and flatted all the e, b and a notes and changed the f# to f. I use my Sabine 1100 electronic tuner to tune the kalimba. It has a cord with an alligator clip which plugs into it to override the built-in mic for noisy rooms. I put the clip in the sound hole of the kalimba and it works very well.

I am not a skilled kalimba player so sometimes changing a tuning is easier than having to play around the wrong notes in certain keys. But the great thing is that one doesn't have to be a skilled player to get real satisfaction from the instrument. Sarah [ ...who is not a skilled musician, picks it up... ] with closed eyes, she finds her own groove just noodling around to her heart's content. It's beautiful. It's a real treat to pick it up every once in a while.

Which brings me to the contest idea embedded in Kevin's message... Hey, kalimba players of the world, what's your favorite tuning? By the way, Kevin, about 2 years ago, I sent a kalimba, tuned exactly like this, to a jazz player in Chicago who needed it for a song in Eb (horns often play in Bb, Eb, or F)! —MH

Robert Peizer's idea is for me to put out some recorded tracks and see which people in the community record the best accompaniment. I'm considering a twist on this - I could turn it into two contests, one where I record kalimba and ask everyone to record whatever (kalimba or other instrument) - and the other where I record guitar or bass, and everyone gets to record their kalimba playing with it...

One of my ideas: I often learn something new from novice kalimba players. For example, a 12 year old kid picked up a celeste board-mounted kalimba and started doing a "wah wah." I had assumed that one must have a hole in the box to do the "wah wah" effect, but he took that board-mounted kalimba (has no sound hole) and quickly waved it back and forth in the air, making the volume quickly decrease and increase as it got further from and closer to your ear (or the microphone). I'm pretty sure the sound was doppler-shifted as well, giving it a pitch bend up and down. Another example of a cool thing someone just figured out would be this guy who plays a kalimba in contact with a hang drum (or "hang sound sculpture unit"). So the contest requirement would be to come up with this kind of innovative technique.


And This Month's Contest is...

For the February contest, let's start out easy.

How about a photo of the kalimba in nature, or the kalimba with your animal?

Please send the photo and a short description by February 25th midnight to mark("at")kalimbamagic.com. Submitting your photo to the contest gives us the right to use it once at low resolution (say 600 pixels across or so) in the newsletter, with your name and/or email address attached to it. If we use one of your photos in the printed calendar, we will need to get a much higher resolution version—maybe 3000 pixels across or better, and we don't have the right to use your image in that way without negotiating with you (i.e., we'll have to give you something).

Read a description of Barbara Grose's original idea that spawned this contest and see a gorgeous example of a kalimba in nature photo by Glen Davis.

Best of luck, Kalimba People!

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