How to play the Kalimba to interpret African music

The Kalimba is a fascinating African musical instrument that is much more complex than it looks. Although it consists simply of a slatted plate and a sound box, it can be played in many different ways to interpret African music. In this article, we'll look at the different techniques for playing the Kalimba.

The melody

One of the main characteristics of the Kalimba is its ability to play pure melodies. Melodies are the sequences of notes that make up a tune. Musicians who play this instrument do so by selecting the blades they wish to play with their fingers. Each blade has its own note, enabling the musician to create a melody. By pressing the blades, the sound is triggered, and the musician can play a complete melody.

The rhythm

Rhythm is another important aspect to master when playing the Kalimba. It refers to the different notes and repetitive movements a musician can play to create a certain pulse. To play the Kalimba with rhythm, the musician must pinch the blades with a certain force and press their fingers towards the body of the Kalimba. Rhythm can be added to the melody using a technique called "body percussion". This allows the musician to give even more body to the sound and create a rich, melodious rhythm.

The harmonies

While it's possible to play simple melodies with the Kalimba, it's also possible to add harmonies to your performance. Harmonies are sounds produced at the same time, which can be very different from the basic tone of the tune. Harmonies can be added by playing several blades with both hands, or by placing an object on certain blades to change their key.

Other techniques

In addition to melodies, rhythms and harmonies, there are many other techniques you can use to create fantastic tunes with the Kalimba. Combining several techniques can produce rich, expressive sounds. You can try techniques such as scratching, glissando, glou-glou, flam-bam and others. Let your imagination run wild and try out combinations of sounds to find unique, expressive sounds you can add to your music.


The Kalimba can be played in many different ways to interpret African music. Melodies, rhythms and harmonies are the main elements to master when starting to play. There are also many other techniques and styles that musicians can experiment with, and which can give them new ideas. With a little work and practice, you could soon be playing some wonderful tunes with the Kalimba.