Streaming revenue may be hit or miss, but record labels can always make their own boutique sound hardware.

Ghostly International have long pioneered new ideas in the category of “selling stuff that isn’t vinyl.” There was the Matthew Dear Totem, for instance – though that served zero practical function and didn’t make sound. Their store feels as much a trendy boutique for design fetishists as a record outlet.

But I think it’s their musical instrument collaborations that are most interesting. Yeah, okay, you could say this is getting a bit hipster-y. But remember that it’s really musical instruments that have since the dawn of civilization been the norm. Recorded music is the aberration.


The latest such offering is Ghostly Zoots – a custom-designed kalimba/mbira and looper rolled all in one. (I find this personally amusing, as just a couple weeks ago I did an impromptu live performance of an mbira with the iPad app Samplr, before I saw this. Building the two into a single piece of hardware is a great idea!)

This being a Ghostly product, it features a dark ebony finish and Ghostly logo.

The design is the product of Brandnewnoise and designer/builder Richard Upchurch, who make their stuff in Brooklyn.

He’s made two other interesting creations for Ghostly. There’s a xylophone/looper:


Phone-Home: Ghostly Edition

Also in the looped category, Looped Visions combines a simple looper with design work by Brandon Locher.

Check out the builder:

  • Graham Metcalfe

    One of my pet peeves… Kalimba is a brand name, the correct name for the instrument is M’bira. “In the mid 1950s the mbira was the basis for the development of the kalimba, a westernized version designed and marketed by the ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracey, leading to a great expansion of its distribution outside of Africa.”

    Other than that, I think the idea that they are creating these little items is pretty cool. I wonder if you can get a version with the traditional rattles on the tines. Makes it super buzzy sounding…built in distortion!

    • Yeah, actually, good point … and worth correcting myself on that.

      • Graham Metcalfe

        Yeah, stupid of me, but I still pronounce Moog incorrectly. I really have to force myself to say Moog as rhymes with Vogue.

    • Max

      That’s very interesting. 🙂

  • John McIntyre

    I love stuff like this!

    IMHO these fall in the ‘toy’ category, and it’s sad that I feel like I have to put a disclaimer on that. It shouldn’t be a pejorative term. Toys are meant to be fun and lighthearted and inspiring, and I think these kinds of instruments are a great example of that kind of thinking.