In our Things Made From Other Things series we've featured some pretty inspiring and amazing objects made from stuff reclaimed from the trash bin. I think today's subject, however, stands alone as an example of ingenuity, artistic spirit and happy accident.
Pictured here is a recent shipment of musical instruments from Africa that we've been stocking for years. There are tambourines made with old bottle caps, and a xylophone with some resonant gourds strung beneath the keys.
My personal favorites, though, are the thumb pianos, which go by about a dozen different names in Africa. They're often made by flattening old nails and other scrap metal to make keys that are attached to a wooden box or even a sawed off tomato can.
My musicianship is rather limited (think Milli Vanilli without the lip-synching skills) so my love for the thumb piano is really as a spectator, and there are few spectacles greater than the one put on by Konono N°1, a collection of musicians from Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They've electrified their thumb pianos with homemade microphones, added some percussion assembled from the junkyard and come out with a layered, hypnotic sound that seems to combine the past from one place with the future from another place.
Visit their website and have a listen. It's not everyone's cup of tea, and I may have ruined my co-workers taste forever with my obsessive listening habits, but as you listen, just remember they're doing that with nails and hubcaps.