For information: Glenda Allison

The African Thumb Piano

Mountain Melody Thumbdrums is the first company on our new Business Directory and they make a delightful musical instrument called a kalimba.

I know that anyone can play one of these because I first played a kalimba about 30 years ago, and used it on the bandstand as a poor boy's vibraphone. Played it through a microphone and it was a marvel.

The sound of a kalimba is both rich and intimate - somewhat like a steel drum or marimba or xylophone, but with a character of its own - and goes well with guitar, flute, or any hand percussion - or more kalimbas. It is fun.

There are serious jazz groups that feature kalimbas, and colleges offer courses that include performance and the culture of the kalimba. This is not a toy.

Yet, it takes only to pick this little thumb piano up - it fits right into the hand - to play it right away. They come in several sizes and shapes - some are made from gourds.

If any of you play a harmonica the kalimba can be tuned with the left hand playing the notes that would be blown, and the right hand playing the notes that would be drawn. Just one idea - invent your own system of tuning. Might find the Lost Chord!

Sheilah and I met Glenda at the War Eagle Festival in Arkansas and I was so glad to see these little thumbdrums, as I hadn't seen one since the 60's.

Glenda Allison

Pension Mountain Woodworks
Melody Mountain Thumbdrums
2835 Hwy 221 S.
Berryville, AR 72616

Randy and Glenda Allison bought this existing kalimba business 5 years ago from a friend of theirs in Eureka Springs. Here is a description in Glenda's own words:

"We introduced the cedar kalimbas and make every piece of the thumbdrums ourselves. We get the gourds from a farm at Pierce City, MO. We are a family based business with 2 part time employees. We have accounts across the country. The San Diego Zoo and The Smithsonian Museum Gift shops are our most noteworthy accounts.

Mountain Melody thumbdrums provide a fun educational way to make music. They are available in two scales: Diatonic, an octave of the C major scale, and the Pentatonic scale, which is a five note scale and primarily a rhythm scale. We number the keys across the metal bridge, because each one comes with a play by number songbook.

Of course each instrument can be tuned to chords if one chooses. We have found this to be an important selling point, so many people say "I'm not musical". Well you don't have to be to learn to play our kalimbas."

If you have a fax number I could fax you our brochure
or we can mail you one.
Glenda Allison
The kalimba originated with the Shona people of Zimbabwe and is called the mbira there. Other names are the karimba, mabira, sansa, thumb harp, thumb piano, and finger harp.
These also make excellent ice breakers for conversation. Just put your kalimba on the coffee table and when one of your shy friends asks, "What is that?" you can say, "That is a kalimba."

Guaranteed party starter.

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