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The Kalimba – An African Musical Instrument of Great Strength and Beauty

Kalimba, which translates into “locust dance” is one of two main types of drum instruments from Shona Africa, the other being gourd drum. Kalimba is traditionally played by a single person, although today there are two-player versions available. The term “kalimba” is derived from a combination of two African words – “klam” meaning palm and “ba” meaning drum. Today, Kalimba drums are most commonly used as a ceremonial or battle drum in many communities all over the world, including Mozambique, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, Burundi, Cambodia, Laos, Italy, Venezuela, India, Mexico, and the United States.

kalimba

The Kalimba – An African Musical Instrument of Great Strength and Beauty

Kalimba are a unique family of percussion instruments, traditionally handed down by the Shona indigenous community of Zimbabwe to the rest of their tribe. They usually consist of a large wooden board covered with tightly spaced metal tines, held vertically by holding onto both the tine bars and plucking with both the fingers and the thumbs, while simultaneously striking the tines with their right forefinger, the left forefinger, or both. These striking movements are combined with wood slapping and clicks, often occurring in rhythm with each other, to create a unique sound that is both rhythmic and idyllic.

Because of their unusual construction, the styles of playing kalimba vary greatly among different tribes, each practicing its own version of the traditional technique. Some use striking percussion sounds produced by sharpened metal tines to strike other tine bars, while others may use a combination of techniques. The striking and plucked of the wood followed by the clicking and rubbing of the metal tines creates a melodic quality that allows the accompanist to follow the lead seamlessly. In fact, many contemporary performers include the kalimba in their musical instrument repertoire, as well as being used in traditional dances, music, and rituals.

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