Hugh Tracey— Father of the Modern Kalimba

- Feb 17, 2019-

If you play kalimba, or if you like kalimba music, perhaps you will be thankful for the many African talents that have been unknown and unknown throughout history. But you also have to thank Dr. Hugh Tracey. You may have heard of carinba before reading its history, as the carinba brand is the same as Hugh Tracey's. How, you may wonder, can a brand of traditional African Musical Instruments be a European name?

Hugh Tracey-Kalimba

Hugh Tracey was born in 1903 into a large and famous British family. His father died when he was five years old. His father, a doctor, was unable to send him like his Cousins to college, and in 1920 he was sent across the sea to work on his brother's tobacco farm in Rhodesia. When he got there, he listened to the songs of the African laborers on the farm. He began to learn to sing these songs, and his interest quickly spread to other African music and Musical Instruments. Hugh Tracey came into contact with mbira early in his career in Africa.


 For Hugh, kalimba must be a real magic instrument. Listening to it play music, Hugh's whole life is deeply affected. kalimba has also been in the spotlight during his work documenting music and collecting Musical Instruments across Africa. Hugh was surprised that he had never met a white man in southern Rhodesia who had noticed the wonderful instrument and had no interest in the music it played. This inspired him and became his lifelong mission: to travel around Africa, documenting the music and the instruments played in Africa. Finding and recording the traditional music culture is like running against time, because the religious chorus music brought by western missionaries and later the western music can be heard on the radio will erode and replace the traditional African scale and melody.


At the time, many white settlers advised Hugh not to waste his time studying Africa. Europeans in Africa generally do not believe that African culture can be valuable. But there are many who understand the treasure he is uncovering and protecting. On several occasions he received grants to travel across Africa to document the music he encountered. His journey began in the 1920s and 1930s, but in a sense continued throughout his life.


Edit by Hodor Wong