When asked as a callow princeling, what were the three greatest inventions enjoyed by mankind? I wouldn’t have hesitated. Simple. The LP or long playing record for style, the automobile for travel adventure with comely companions and the hot shower to wash away previous excesses.
Today however, being older and better informed, I would simply say “the langenaria siceraria“, which is none other than the bottle gourd, opo squash, long melon or calabash. Wiki has a tremendous entry, noting that this cultivated vine has played an integral part in the genesis and migration of humanity. It has both culinary and cultural uses, and here we will be focusing on the latter.
So begins the Master Class on how to make a calabash-based instrument.
Now, you could go the long way and grow a langeria siceraria which could take ages, so the happy citizens of tubbyland go online to The Gourdfather and select a calabash of their choosing. If you are US based, HERE is your link. And it you want to know why I’m such a smarty pants on the subject, THIS is the read for you, and which I’m referencing for a lot of information below. Finally, if you’re hit the links, you will realise that choosing a gourd is a bit like choosing a partner: they are all different so its a question of the type of music you wish to play.
Gourds lend themselves to the following instrumentation based on the Sacks-Hornstabel system:
Idiophones – which is to say a solid material which you hit, stamp, shake, knock together, scape, rub, pluck (mbira) and hit in a complex manner (xylophone).
Try this sample of the marimba by the African Dream Marimba Band of Capetown.
And in the same family:
Mbiras come is a massive variety of styles, many to which transform into cultural objects par excellence, as evidenced by THIS google image save:
Membraphones: basically a drum of any type.
Finally, chordophones: any instrument which uses a vibrating string as its sound source.
Unquestionably, the greatest instrument in this category is the African harp-lute or Kora.
Griot Lamin Saho
Now I see that the class is not on-task: sleeping, texting and chatting up members of the opposite sex, so we will resume this afternoon.
I was going to set some homework on How a String Vibrates, but this type of math is way above my pay scale.