Sonic Gourds: 3 musical instruments built with the fruit
Have you ever heard of sound gourds? They are dried gourds, generally decorative, that are processed and adapted to be used as alternative musical instruments. Primitive maracas were nothing more than gourds filled with pebbles. The instrument of Indian music best known in the West, he sitarconsists of a pumpkin cut in half and the snake charmers themselves played by blowing into small pumpkins.
More widespread in Africa and in Eastern countries, the sound gourds now also fascinate the Old Continent, where copious craft workshops and experiments emerge that bring traditional primitive music back into vogue and beyond.
What are sonic pumpkins
It might seem bizarre to us, but pumpkins have been used for the production of musical instruments since the beginning of History of music. In particular, the lagenarie have an external structure which, if dried and worked, lends itself very well to being transformed into a resonance box for stringed and plucked instruments, but also for wind and percussion instruments. Hence the name of sound pumpkins or pumpkins to play.
Africa certainly holds the record for musical instruments made with pumpkinsbut also the East and Latin America have their own tradition linked to gourds.
Hulusi or Cucurbit Flute, the Chinese flute
The hulusi is an instrument originally from China. It is made up of three bamboo canes inserted into a gourd, which works as a windchest (the structure that keeps the air in the canes). It is built according to the same structural principle as the hulushenga mouth organ created with gourd and bamboo and popular throughout East Asia.
The hulusi is played all over China and, in some variations, it recalls the sound of a clarinet or an oboe.
Sound gourds and music: the water drum
The water drum is an instrument originally from Africa and widespread above all in the western part of the continent. In ancient times it was an instrument owned and used exclusively by women for ceremonies and rituals. Today there are few villages that have maintained this tradition and more often now, the water drum is played by both sexes.
They consist of two hollowed out pumpkins of different sizes: one is filled with water and the other is placed inside the first and beaten. Depending on the amount of water in the container gourd and the size of the floating gourd, different notes are produced. The sound made by this sound gourd resembles a heartbeat.
The Brazilian berimbau and capoeira
The berimbao, or birimbao, is a stringed musical instrument that has such sounding board a small pumpkin. Used in capoeira, together with caxixi, today berimbao is part of the Latin American musical tradition. The instrument is actually of African origin, but it spread mainly in Brazil following the importation of African slaves in the colonial era.
By moving the gourd away and towards the body, the player can amplify or muffle the sound. On the basis of the sound, then, three different types of berimbao are classified. The gunga, generally the largest of the three, is considered a sacred instrument and can only be played by an important musician or by someone with the master’s permission. And while the berimbao is held in the left hand, the right holds the wooden stick and the caxixianother instrument built with pumpkins and that accompanies the sound of capoeira.
Pumpkins to play: the caxixi
It is a small woven wicker basket, anchored to a base generally made up of a dried pumpkin. Inside there are seeds or shells that generate sound with movement.
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