As we get used to hearing a certain range of refined instruments, such as pianos, guitars and violins in our everyday lives, we may not notice some other, more ancient, but actually quite interesting ones. These instruments have centuries, perhaps thousands of years of history behind them, but some are at the risk of becoming forgotten. As for now, you can still listen to them and enjoy their strange, haunting, or enchanting sounds.
Several traditional instruments are all but forgotten (Photo: pixabay.com / Leo_65)
Music is as old as humanity, and is a natural part of basically every culture found on Earth. From the rhythmical chants or the lullabies sung by mothers to the ballads, the need to express our deepest feelings - or to interpret others' - through music is something that has never changed. Music lets us bond to each other, and feel as a part of the smaller or bigger human society that surrounds us.
Would you start making an instrument out of a cactus? Well, the Mapuches did, and their invention is just incredible! The dried, hollow tubes are actually the parts of a cactus, and so are the thorns, that are driven into it much like small needles or pins. Before the tubes are sealed on both parts, they are filled with small pebbles or dried beans, which, soon as the stick is turned, make a rain-like sound while hitting the surface of the thorns. This instrument was believed to bring the much needed rainstorms to the often dry Chilean and Argentine coasts. At other parts of the earth, bamboo is a popular material to substitute the cacti.
The didgeridoo is the iconic, huge wooden pipe of the Indigenous Australians of northern Australia, which - beside being quite distinctive in terms of its appearance - has an unmistakable sound. It's almost always played by men, and when it comes to ceremonies, women are not at all allowed to play it. In fact, the didgeridoo is partly made by nature - as termites attack living eucalyptus trees, they can only eat the dead inner parts of the plant, because the chemical found in the living trees act as an insect repellent. Craftsmen usually work with these already hollowed plants.
The jaw harp was common in most parts of Asia and Europe, and it was frequently used by Turks too. The instrument is quite simple - it consist of a flexible metal (sometimes bamboo) tongue, and a frame. The player puts part of the tongue into his/her mouth, then plucks it with a finger to make the characteristic tone and a vast amount of overtones the jaw harp provides.
Aulos - a forgotten Greek double pipe
The aulos is an ancient Greek instrument, which, for many centuries, hadn't been played in public - up until the last few years, when it was recreated in order to accompany classical poetry and plays. The aulos - which is basically a double pipe that has two independent pieces that are used at the same time by the musician - was quite popular among the Greeks, and often it was used to accompany pieces of poetry or plays. It was not the sound of the pipe that made it lose the popularity, but the fact that it required really hard work to master the skill of playing an aulos. As more easily playable instruments began to take its place, the aulos was all but forgotten for almost 2000 years... In the video below you can take a glimpse at what Ancient Greek music was like - and you can also hear the aulos.