I have derived so much peace and joy from playing kalimba…
An Instrument of Peace, a Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness
I started out alone in a desert. In Socorro, NM, I was the only person I knew who played kalimba. I used to go out and walk into the canyons and foothills with my kalimba, making a joyful noise to the universe, the sounds of the tines echoing and reverberating off the canyon walls. The canyon was like a womb, taking me in, letting me grow, nourishing me and my music.
And that music really came to life. I didn’t quite know what to do with that music but I felt a strong drive to continue nevertheless. More than one person told me during that time that the kalimba was just a toy, that my calling was not worthy of following. But I became certain of buried treasure, and I continued to dig for the gold.
In 2005 I had a waking dream, a vision of a million people playing the kalimba, every one of them putting out good vibes to the people around them. It was a vision of people deriving peace from this instrument and sharing their joy with family, friends, and neighbors. There is so much in this world that is so messed up that one sometimes wonders what one could ever do to help. But now I knew what I could do. This vision still gives me purpose and inspires me to write music and books, to teach friends and strangers about the kalimba.
Now, the kalimba music is really flowing out into the world. And I’ve realized that I can’t expect the world to just know how to do what has taken me 30 years to learn. So, I am starting at the source, at a simple place where people can “get it”, and succeed.
And they are getting it. They are understanding that this is something fundamentally new — even though the kalimba is an instrument of ancient heritage, or maybe even because this instrument is of ancient heritage, it offers something totally new to people in this time and place: a chance to put aside the trials of the day, a chance to use your mind in a new and unique manner, a chance to walk a new path. A chance to integrate your left/analytical brain with your right/intuitive brain. A chance to incubate a spirit of joy and wonder and beauty and peace in your heart.
Some cultures in Africa have had kalimba-like instruments for over a thousand years. There are interesting origin myths – that the Spirits gave the kalimba to humans to communicate with them. In some cultures, the kalimba-like instruments are near the center of life itself.
So, don’t just sit on your kalimba.
Stand proud, sing out to the world, let your light shine, and share your kalimba music with the people in your family and your friends and your communities. It may not solve the world’s great problems, but it certainly won’t hurt to have a bit more mystery, beauty, wonder and music in your life!
These beautiful nature photos were taken by Glen Davis. Glen goes out into the wild places with his kalimba and finds peace and wonder.