It’s always hard to find a new and interesting sound to add to your repertoire. There’s only so much you can do with steel drums and a banjo.
Exploring the instruments of world music can be very rewarding in this context. While most pop music in the world is firmly rooted in Western scales and instrumentation, there are as many approaches to music as there are cultures in the world.
Africa is a prime example, as a mega-diverse continent of nations and cultures. The Kalimba, or “mbira” under its traditional African name, is a great example of this. The original precursor to this instrument was first seen some 3000 years ago on the Western coast of the African continent. Since then many different variants have been created, with different tunings and materials.
This example is actually tuned to C, which makes it compatible with Western music, but brings that unique African tone. It has 17 keys, made of metal and precisely tuned, with an acoustic sounding box to make for a really rich tone.
As you can see in the video above, the instrument is played with just the two thumbs. This makes it mainly an instrument for creating melodies and, at most, playing two-note chords and harmonies. That’s not a bad thing, though, and makes it a great instrument for kids, starting musicians, and anyone more experienced who wants something to play on when on the go.
You get a tuning hammer, guidebook, and carry bag with this one. That makes it a nice overall package that will delight casual music fans and serious, experimental musicians alike.
If you know someone who likes to dabble outside of the musical mainstream, this is the sort of gift that will always be appreciated.