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When thumb makes music...

When thumb makes music...
Photo Credit: Puneet K. Paliwal

Test the musical side of you with kalimba, thumb piano, from Ubud in central Bali (Indonesia)

Venky Vembu
July 23 , 2015
Less than 1 Min Read

Wandering in Ubud in central BaIi, where much of the love in Eat, Pray, Love played out, I chanced upon this wooden ‘thumb piano’ at a roadside souvenir counter. Or, more correctly, I was drawn into its musical orbit by the mellifluous tune that the charming vendor of trinkets was coaxing out of so rudimentary an instrument. The kalimba, as it is called, traces its origin to sub-Saharan Africa, where in an earlier time, itinerant griots used to strum it to embellish the tribal history they narrated on their wanderings. It was believed that the kalimba could even summon spirits from heaven down to earth. After some good-spirited haggling, I procured this chromatically rich kalimba for 20,000 Indonesian rupiah (about Rs 100). It now rests on my writing desk, from where I summon ancient African spirits whenever I am in need of literary inspiration.


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