By: Dr. Ron McCluskey
Most people that do a significant amount of travel have a house that looks like a museum. If you are thinking of bringing back souvenirs on a theme, I would encourage you to think about collecting musical instruments.
Those of us in western civilizations are accustomed to a large variety of instruments. However, there are many types of instruments that you will never see in any orchestra. They are, however, worth your consideration, both for their uniqueness of structure, but of sound.
One of the things that I really wanted to do in Borneo was bring home a number of the stringed instruments that I saw in the shops of Kuching, Sarawak - the sape. But, I did not have enough money at the time. The sape or sapeh is a guitar type instrument shaped somewhat more like a lute. It normally has four strings, but occasionally has 3 or 5.
Several of the tribes in Borneo use this instrument. I saw one man in the Sarawak Cultural Village that made them. He gave us a short concert that was simply enchanting.The sound that was much more common in our travels in Sarawak was the combination of brass gongs and drums. The gongs are sold by Chinese traders up and down the rivers and so at least one set is found in every long house. A set of these gongs would be a good addition to any musical instrument collection.
Musical instruments are typically found in three different groups - string, wind, and percussion. They can be further divided by the type of material they are made of and whether they are designed to play melody or for rhythm.
One unique string instrument that would make a great collectors item would be the gopichand. This unique instrument has a single string and it is held tight by two strips of bamboo. The bamboo is then squeezed together to change the tone of the note. It is typically used for rhythm. This instrument is from Bengal.
Another unique string instrument is the Veena from southern India. This instrument has resonance chambers at each end. The Veena (also called Vina) is somewhat like a lute and has a sound like a very mellow sitar.
There is one type of instrument that you may already have and not realize it. That is the rain stick. It is made of a hollow tube of wood - often bamboo - with beeds or seeds in it. You tip it back and forth to make a soothing sound.
Another type of instrument that is commonly taken home without thinking of it as being a musical instrument is the thumb piano or kalimba. These strange instruments are made by attaching strips of metal into a sounding board. These are then plucked in a downward motion of the thumb to make a tone. They are different sizes so that a melody can be played.
Something that I've tried to play a couple of times is the didgeridoo. I would love to become adept at playing this unique instrument. It is basically just a tube that the Australian aborigines use to produce a delightfully soulful sound by blowing in it. This one definitely goes in the rhythm section because there is not really any tune possible.
Drums come in all shapes and sizes and make noise in more ways than you can imagine. You could make a very interesting collection just of these instruments.
You may not decide to make a large collection of unique musical instruments Find Article, but you should definitely put them on your list of things to consider bringing home.