Link - article by Simon Rose and Avi Abrams

Some Odd, Forgotten and Bizarre Instruments from Around the World

Also Read Part 1

Most of us are familiar with pianos, guitars, drums, the wind and percussion instruments that make up many orchestras, plus many others. However, considering the multitude of different cultures that exist on our planet, its not surprising that mankind has also managed to come up with some pretty unusual musical instruments over the course of history. Here’s a look at some of the little known, odd, forgotten and at times bizarre looking instruments from around the world.

(steampunk styled guitar, by Lirio Salvador of the Philippines, more info)

This is the Pikasso, and it certainly looks like something the renowned surrealist artist would have devised. The Pikasso took two years to build, has four necks and 42 strings in total and you probably need more than two hands to play it:

(image credit: Manfred Schweda, Thisfabtrek.com)

(left: Pikasso Guitar; right image: unknown fantasy-style, via)

The zither, an instrument with strings stretched over a resonating wooden box, is familiar to some people as a result of its use in the 1949 movie The Third Man (listen here), but the instrument has been largely forgotten since that time.

(right: bowed zither, images via)

The Erhu from China is similar to a Chinese violin, with a base that is more oblong in shape. The word Erhu can be roughly translated into English as a ‘southern fiddle’. The small sound box at the bottom of the instrument is covered with... python skin:

(images via)

The Harp Guitar, while not being that well known, has in fact been around for at least two hundred years. It’s basically an acoustic guitar with an additional neck containing strings like a harp:

(the Wingert guitar, the Knutsen guitars and the Gibson harp guitar - images via 1, 2)

The Javanese Bonang has a wooden frame on which brass gongs are strung together. The brass heads are struck with padded sticks to create the desired sound and tone:

(images via, Frank W. Baker)

The alphorn, alpenhorn or alpine horn is mostly associated with Switzerland and the Alps, but similar wooden horns have been used in most of Europe’s mountainous regions over the centuries:

(image via)

This variety of trumpet called the wakrapuku is made from metal or cattle horn and is a very old instrument, dating back to pre-Columbian times in the Andes:

(images via 1, 2)

The clavichord, which could be described as a tabletop piano, was invented in the early fourteenth century and was very popular from the 16th century to the 18th century, when the piano first appeared. The clavichord was almost forgotten by 1850, but enjoyed a revival among enthusiasts at the beginning of the twentieth century:

(image via)

The distinctive humming of the didgeridoo from Australia is so closely associated with the land down under. The instrument is made from eucalyptus wood that’s hollowed out by termites and dates back over 1500 years:

(images via 1, 2)

Uillean Pipes and are type of bagpipes, used in traditional Irish music. The pipes are not blown into like the Scottish version, but instead the right elbow operates bellows, which pumps up a bag at your left elbow. This then produces the air for the instrument’s seven pipes:

(image via)

The Kaval is a type of flute used at various times by musicians in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Macedonia, parts of Northern Greece, Romania, southern Serbia and Turkey:

(image via)

The bombard is similar to an oboe and is used in Breton music in Northern France. The bombard is apparently very loud and requires so much breath to play, that the player needs a rest after as little as ten seconds:

(images via 1, 2)

The ocarina is a very ancient flute-like instrument, dating back at least 12,000 years. Instruments of this type were known in ancient China, but the Spanish first introduced the ocarina into Europe after their conquests in Central and South America in the sixteenth century. It became known as a toy instrument for children, only capable of playing a few notes, until the modern version of the ocarina was developed in Italy in the mid-nineteenth century:

(images via 1, 2)

The three-string Shamisen from Japan is a little like a banjo, but with a smaller base and slimmer neck. It developed from the smaller Sanshin, the body of which is covered in python skin, which originates from Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands. The shamisen is used in Japanese folk music and is popular with street performers:

(images via 1, 2)

So that’s our second look at some of the world’s more unusual musical instruments (read the first one here). Be sure to join us here at Dark Roasted Blend for Part Three.

Bonus: Brazilian radio station KISS FM invented a cassette-tape musician, who can play standard instruments to their hardest rock potential:

(image via)

Bugs are falling in love by sharing a DUET:

(art by Balazc Papay, CG Society, click to enlarge)

Meanwhile in Soviet Russia, it was all about how you listen to the instrument, too:

(original unknown)



Simon Rose is the author of science fiction and fantasy novels for children, including The Alchemist's Portrait, The Sorcerer's Letterbox, The Clone Conspiracy, The Emerald Curse, The Heretic's Tomb and The Doomsday Mask.



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Blogger jqpublick said...

It's Uilleann. There are two 'n's in the word. The pipes have three drones (the things sitting on the shoulder of Scottish pipers) and the keyed bits you can see are called 'regulators'. Those are played with the wrist while the hands play the chanter, which is the pipe separated from the others. Sorry, but I had to say something about the spelling. The rest is just me being pedantic.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That Kiss radio ad is actually some CG work done by this artist here. http://duque.cgsociety.org/gallery/

Blogger Daniel said...

I seem to recall seeing that the "mystery image" at the bottom was a human version of the "mouse organ" from the monty python sketch - basically pressing a key on a keyboard signalled one of the people in the boxes to make a noise (I can't remember if they were actually made to scream, but it seems unlikely)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Soviet Russia, you don't listen to instrument, instrument listen to you!

Blogger Quill said...

The bottom image is of a specific form of punishment where the men were not allowed to see one another, ever. The only outlet was pious singalong. You can see they cannot see one another in any way. The men screamed very loudly and were most enthusiastic. This pleased whichever deity was in fashion that century.

And thus we enjoy a crime-free Russia today.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last image is indeed from a prison. I don't remember if they are watching a priest or listening to a political speech, but it was something like that - let all the prisoners see and hear, but not talk to each other.
Definitely not music-related.

Someone once joked that it is a set of experimental toilets :-).

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "Steampunk Guitar" at the top is a working assemblage sculpture by Lirio Salvador of the Philippines.

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Thank you about this info. Article updated.

Anonymous Tonal Mass said...

I don't know about some of those instruments...but I would definitely like to get my hands on some of those guitars. The Steampunk Guitar looks particularly awesome to play.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why isn't Harry Partch mentioned? He made some of the weirdest musical instruments (and music) ever: http://cosmicmachine.blogspot.com/2011_09_25_archive.html

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well apparently this site didn't post the entire address, but just Google "Harry Partch" and you will see what I mean.

Anonymous Janet Bernasconi said...

Awesome photos! The instruments are fascinating. I am a big fan of steampunk items. Thanks for following me on Twitter.
Have a great day,

Anonymous Sarah Dumond said...

I am a fan of Michael Mcgoldrick and his uilleann, the sound is magic, reaches top the deepest corners of my soul, you can listen here you should also check out the video of his collaboration with Gerry O'Connor, here is the link to it, it's amazing!

Anonymous Frank Holder said...

Some of these guitars are absolutely insane.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

regarding the STEAM PUNK GUITAR
You should check out the videos of Lirio Salvador and his band Elemento performing using those "Sandata" (Weapon)...
this is one of the video links https://youtu.be/_4AQkbdy_Cw


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