Posts Tagged ‘formerly Rhodesia’
The translation of Kalimba is little music, and it is a perfect blend of African sounds adapted to include Western tastes.
Developed in the 1960s by Englishman Hugh Tracey, it is often referred to as the thumb piano for allowing the musician to play harmony using both thumbs.
Tracey relocated from Great Britain to Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, to assist in the operation of a tobacco farm owned by his brother in the 1920’s. While there, he became fascinated by the African music culture, particularly an instrument called the mbira. Tracey invented the modern Kalimba based on the construction of the mbira.
There is some cross-pollination of these instruments in Africa. In Zimbabwe the population still refers to the instrument as the mbira and in Kenya they say Kalimba. To further confuse the issue, in Rwanda and the Congo the instrument is called an ikembe. Less common names are the sanza, marimba and marimbula.
Perhaps the most generic name for this marvelous instrument is the thumb piano, gourd piano and finger harp.
Essentially, the Kalimba, pronounced ka-leem’-buh, is a wooden box with metal keys called lamellas adhered to the top. The keys are sometimes made from cane while the box is made from an African hardwood called kyat.
Traditional African self-reliance has some of these beautiful instruments fashioned out of bicycle spokes, spoon handles or discarded wire that is shaped into the necessary length for plucking. These strings are plucked with the two thumbs or a combination of thumbs and fingers.
The strings or keys are 20 to 24 in number, placed on two bars on the sound box. The loose ends of the keys are various lengths which provide the different pitches. Like any stringed instrument of the West, a longer string produces a lower pitch and a shorter string accords a higher pitch.
Our friend Samite is a master of Kalimba music, so why not invite his artistry into your home?