We stock a selection of African kalimbas (mbira), or “thumb pianos” which we import from African Musical Instruments in South Africa. The kalimba is an ancient African instrument, made from a wooden box and a few keys of flattened metal. Its magical music is filled with a spirit of beauty and complexity. It is an ideal portable instrument for use at home, school, in formal and informal music groups, for music therapy, meditation, at camps, while hitchhiking or sick in bed.

Treble Kalimba (with soundbox)

This is the basic Kalimba of the range, and is recommended for beginners. It has a clear, resonant tone well suited to guitar or voice, for solo or group playing. 17 notes, box based with vibrato holes.

Range – B to D”



Alto with soundbox:  650 shekels / $185

Karimba: 595 shekels / $170

Alto Celeste: 550 shekels / $157

Celeste Kalimbas

A small, quiet model with a clear tone for solo playing. Illustrated are both the Treble layout (with 17 notes, board – based, range – B to D”) and the Alto layout (A deeper toned Kalimba to accompany the treble or for solo use if preferred, with 15 notes- Range: G to G”)

TM Kalimbas (We do not have any of these in stock at present).

This body shape resembles the traditional Karimbas from Zimbabwe and Zambia, and is the basis of AMI’s beautiful logo, designed by Hugh Tracey in 1933. The “TM” stands for “trade mark”. Shown is the Alto tuning note layout.

African Karimba

An African tuned Kalimba based on traditional mbiras from the Zambezi valley in Zimbabwe. The instrument has two ranks of keys with brass buzzer rings, and comes supplied with an instruction leaflet for six tunes. It is also available with the traditional African ‘Trade mark’ shaped board base, which we do not have in stock at present.

The mbira, or ‘thumb-piano’ is a traditional African instrument, well known in many parts of Africa. It was the favourite instrument of pioneering musicologist, Hugh Tracey, who first heard it as a young man while farming in Zimbabwe in the 1920’s. He loved its originality, its companionship and the fascination of its crossing finger and sound patterns. For him, the essence of African music was encapsulated in this small, lively instrument that you could hold in your hands. Wanting to share his discovery, he eventually developed his own version, the Kalimba, in the 1950’s. He tuned them to a western scale, to allow musicians all over the world to enjoy the instrument.

Now, many years later, the original Hugh Tracey Kalimba ‘thumb piano’, still sets the standard. The body is made, like the African originals, from resonant Kiaat wood, and the keys, which you pluck with your thumbs, are made of high quality spring steel. It can be played individually or in groups and its clear tone holds its own remarkably well against voices or other instruments.

Kalimbas are tuned to the diatonic scale of G major although they can be retuned to any key. They come with instruction cards giving hints on tuning, melody and chord playing. There are six different Kalimba models, some have a resonating box and others are board-based.

The kalimba “features” on a number of tracks on the “Woodsong” C.D.

We also stock a number of CD’s of kalimba music by American, Mark Holdaway (Kalimba Magic), as well as his excellent instruction manuals on how to play the kalimba.

Mark writes:

“There is a wonder that flows from this very special instrument, and I am dedicated to spreading the joys of kalimba music throughout the world.”