Welcome! Family Photo Albums Nengaletters e-mail logokyomedia.com

Back in October of last year, we went to the Osaka Beer Summit with Friend Don. The non-alcoholic highlight of the evening was a kalimba (African thumb piano) concert by Yamada Haruzo (picture at right).

This June, Yamada-san held a kalimba workshop in Kyoto. Friend Don, his friend Noriko, and I went to the workshop. We all had a chance to learn how to play this amazing instrument as well as hear a true master of the instrument.

Friend Don, an acomplished guitarist, had no problem learning the technique.

Friend Noriko also picked up the technique with little effort.

Steve, however, merely proved that one can be all thumbs and still not be able to play a thumb piano.

Yamada-san has a spot on a Kyoto musicians' web site. The site features a bit of one of his songs, "NYACKY" (RealAudio; 1m30s), from his CD (cover at right). If you like what you hear, you can order his CD by calling him in Kyoto: 075-781-5813.


Steve was so impressed with the Kalimba's gorgeous sound that he went to the local do-it-yourself shop and bought the materials (wood, steel bobby pins, brass rod, eyelet screws) to make a very cheap (400 yen/$5) and simple yet nice-sounding instrument (modeled after Yamada-san's at right).

I used the kid's keyboard to tune it to a standard Western musical scale. There are several African tuning scales, but I have not been able to find one.

Of course there are several web sites that sell authentic instruments. Most music shops should also be able to get one for you. But for a first taste of the magical sound, this 400 yen kalimba works amazingly well.


After the workshop, Don and Steve let Noriko, a Kyoto resident, show them around town. She introduced them to some wonderful restaurants, interesting chefs (she knows them all!) and drinking establishments, all at breakneck speed, the only speed she knows, according to Don. Whew! It was quite an aerobic workout trying to keep up with her. But the food and drink and conversation at the end of each 50-yard dash was well worth the head and muscle aches that the next day would bring.

And the entire day's events only reinforced Steve's (and Don's) long-held belief that Kyoto is Japan at its very best.

Welcome! Family Photo Albums Nengaletters e-mail logokyomedia.com