Mark Holdaway,
Christmas Kalimba
(self-produced, 2005)

Mark Holdaway is a multi-instrumentalist from Tucson, Arizona. A radio astronomer by day, Holdaway says his life is filled with music. To this musical Quaker, the most important rule of music is to use your own ear to tell what sounds right and make a joyful noise.

For his latest musical contribution, Mark has chosen an ancient African instrument for his Christmas album. The kalimba is second in popularity among Africans; only the drum is more popular. Known also as the thumb piano, the kalimba is called by many different names among the various African tribes. Constructed out of a block of wood and metal strips, many tribes see the kalimba as a sacred instrument to communicate with their ancestors.

Holdaway's use of the kalimba provides an interesting variation on the traditional tunes. Christmas Kalimba opens with the traditional Shaker tune "Simple Gifts" and ends with "Silent Night." In between are an original tune by Holdaway, a Christmas medley and more traditional tunes.

While using a kalimba to play Christmas fare provides for a change, this is not a CD for use at a party or as background music. Listeners must pay close attention to each piece in order to follow the tunes. Using other instruments on some of the pieces enhances them, but laying down multiple tracks of the same kalimba with no variation in sound is rather confusing and listeners may lose the melody -- especially when not listening very closely.

by Sherrill Fulghum
9 December 2006

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