Exploring with the Kalimba June 23 2014
Many see our new Zoots (kalimba) and think, "what the heck is it?" Great question.
Kalimba or mbira is often referred to as a "thumb piano" and originated in Africa. For a nice brief history check out kalimbamagic.com The insturment is played by holding it in your hands and plucking the tines downward with your thumbs. The base of the instrument is typically crafted of wood but can be made from gourds or other materials. Caleb Schepart in upstate New York is a great resource, and builds really well crafted, handmade kalimbas which you can find here.
There are some really stunning musicians using the kalimba and one of those is Kevin Spears. I was introduced to Kevin's music after showcasing the brandnewnoise's prototype of Zoots at Moogfest 2014. In this video you see Kevin using a electric kalimba in conjunction with a Boss looping station, Handsonic 10, and other effects.
Zoots has the continuous looping playback switch, an internal microphone, and a pitch shifter. The sound is low-fi, a bit grainy, but wildly fun and a great tool for exploring sound. Of course it can be used in recording or live performance with the 1/8" output jack.