Friday, May 22, 2009

Things Made From Other Things IV

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.

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