Kalimbas have become very popular over the years and there are a lot of companies that produce these wonderful instruments. Not all of them are created equally and the market is very flooded. That is why we have decided to write this article sharing with you the leading kalimba brands with information about each company and how they produce their musical instruments so that you know which one is for you.
The mbira is a traditional African instrument that was handmade by the people in South Africa. Hugh Tracey came to Africa and reinvented the mbira into the kalimba in a different design and trademarked it. He started a company called African musical instruments (AMI for short) and began producing the first manufactured kalimba.
The Hugh Tracey kalimba is the original instrument that is typically made of Kiaat wood (Wild teak) and have many different models available such as treble (17 keys), Alta (15 keys) and Celeste (11 keys) and more. They produce board and box type kalimbas that range in price from £100 to £150 depending on the model you choose and whether it has a built in digital pickup or not.
Have been producing handmade kalimba instruments since 1985 in Northern Germany. There are two main types of kalimba produced by the company, these are the Hokema kalimba which is a flat wooden board instrument and the other is the Sansula which is box type instrument that typically has less key tines, sounds more amplified and has a much higher price tag.
The Sansula box type kalimbas have 9 notes and come in three varieties, these are; basic, deluxe and renaissance. The main difference between them are the material; the basic variety is made from cellulose, the Rennasiance one is made from a plastic drum head by REMO that enhances the sound. The deluxe which is the most expensive is made from goatskin, they are all tuned to A minor. There is another variety called the Basic melody & renaissance melody which are tuned to G Major and have 11 key tines.
The Hokema board kalimbas are priced as follows; B5 €35 - B7 €49 - B9 €49 - B11 €65 - B15 €95 - B17 - €95 - B17 €99 - Twin Kalimba €99. The Hokema b17 model is tuned to C-major and is the perfect instrument for any person whether at a beginner level or professional as it has all of the tines that is needed to play almost any song without limitations. The Sansula kalimba prices are as follows: Basic €99 - Basic Melody €139 - Renaissance €160 - Sansula Deluxe €210.
The Hokema kalimbas are distributed worldwide and as you can see the Sansula box type kalimbas are more expensive than the regular Hokema ones. Which one is best for you depends on how you wish to use the instrument. The Hokema board kalimba is more robust, and is better suited to every player whereas the Sansula has less tines that sound nicer which is perfect for the studio musician that wants to record their instrument.
They also sell bag cases for every type of instrument they make and other accessories such as the Hokema tuning bar that is useful for tuning the instrument by adjusting the tines and the Sansula instruction booklet comes with a useful CD.
Whilst technically not a brand that produces kalimbas, the founder of kalimba magic; Mark Holdaway has produced nearly 100 song books that are available for sale in PDF format. The kalimba magic website has a collection of educational blogs similar to our own and has a large inventory of Hugh Tracey kalimbas, Magadi kalimbas, and Chinese height kalimbas.
With full transparency; I would love to own this business and have expressed my interest in it. Back in 2020, I emailed the owner asking if they were willing to sell the company, three years ago I was naive and was rightly turned down but it would be my dream to own kalimba magic and add all of its useful resources to Carved Culture.
The truth is that Mark Holloway found his element with the kalimba at only two years old in 1964 when he was visiting a family member and saw the original Hugh Tracey kalimba on the coffee table. Every time he visited he played the instrument and by the age of 18 he became very good at it. The company name came from a friend of his who was so talented with the instrument that the sound of him playing was almost like magic.
A company founded by Hugh Tracey called African music instruments (AMI); contacted Mark in 2005 via email asking him to help him sell the instruments as they needed a distributor in the US, he was the perfect fit and the rest is history. The kalimba magic story inspires me and makes me realise that if I am to ever own such a wonderful company then I must work as hard as Mark did producing all of those books and practicing the kalimba every day for more than 30 years.
Gecko is a company from mainland China that was established in 2009, they specialise in multiple musical instruments including drum sticks, ukuleles, electric guitars, cajon drums and hand crafted kalimbas. The kalimbas that they produce come in different size models which are 8 notes, 10 note, 15 note, and 17 note. Each kalimba is made from wooden timber and is priced between £20-£50.
The brand Kimi kalimba produces 17 key kalimba instruments in China that are made from transparent acrylic. They come in all different shapes and are very popular and cost approximately £20.
Carved Culture kalimbas
Although we sell thumb piano kalimbas, we do not have our own branded products yet. This is because we work with our artisans around the world to produce these instruments but not currently have full control over the end product. In fact, we like it this way because they can produce great instruments doing what they do best and we get to distribute them whilst creating educational content, which is what we do best.
Our company is more known for the free learning material around kalimbas and music. As well as the products we source from other countries we also resale branded kalimbas and so we may have the musical instrument that you are looking for.
There are plenty of other kalimba brands that we have not mentioned yet and the main reason why is because these instruments are mass produced and labeled as branded products but a lot of them are made the same way in the same factories. Some other brands not mentioned include but are not limited; Donner, Hluru, April Yang, Dual, Himi, Unokki, Dripex, Eastrock, Rayzm, Genround, Moozica, Ekato, Beautmelo, Martin Smith, and Lingting kalimba.
Up next: The Best Kalimba Apps (Free & Paid)