Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sikus, Gamelan, Amadindas

Not plants, not rocks.

In the Company of Plants and Rocks is taking a few weeks off to go to summer camp – specifically Summer Music Camp at the University of Wyoming, for kids ages 12-17. Obviously I'm not a camper, but it's almost as much fun as being one.  I'm the World Music instructor.  We do a little listening and watching, and discuss cultural roles of traditional music, but mainly we play.
Sikuris Andinas – Andean panpipes.
We play sikus – panpipes from the Andes.  There are two different sets of pipes – iras and arcas.  Each has every other note of the scale.  Half the class plays iras and the other half arcas, using an interlocking technique (hocketing) to produce a single tune.  Everyone think's it's impossible the first day of class, but by the end ... they sound great!
Ira, arca (L, R).  Traditional sikus are made of cane.  These are durable pex tubing
Here's 27 de Junio Nuevo Eraour sister group in Puno, Peru.  Several University of Wyoming students studied traditional flute music in the Puno area.  They met this group, and came home with sikus and tunes.

--- ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ---

The University also has a Balinese gamelan – tuned percussion instruments, mainly metallophones and gongs.  Gamelan music is made up of cyclical patterns ranging from simple to complex.  So there are parts for everyone.
Indonesia isn't the only place you can hear great gamelan music.  Here’s Gamelan Tunas Mekar from Denver, Colorado.

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ---

This year we’re doing something new:  amadindas – tuned percussion instruments from eastern Africa (e.g. Uganda).  You can experience a real amadinda in Bela Fleck’s Throw Down Your Heart.  Here’s an excerpt.  These guys are fantastic!
Our amadindas are much simpler, and easy to make.  Cut tone bars from 2x4 inch lumber (I used 8 foot studs), trim lengths to adjust pitch, apply a finish (I used Danish oil), and glue foam “feet” on the bottoms.  Cut 8 inch mallets from 3/4 inch dowels.
Amadindas under construction.
Strips of 1/4" foam on the underside raise the tone bar above the playing surface .
To play the amadinda, strike the edges of the ends of the tone bars.  It can be played solo, or by two people on opposite sides (hocketing).  Play on a table, on the floor, outside on the ground, or on a counter in the kitchen … just line up the boards and go!
Mallets are wrapped in decorative duct tape.

Making music is for everyone!


  1. Wow, you teach world music, too? How fun... and that is a summer camp I would love to attend, even at my age :)

    1. Thanks, Lola. Sounds like you still have a bit of the child inside! I do too ... as I discover when I hang out with these guys :)

  2. Great!! And thanks for the YT excerpts!

  3. They are processed plants and rocks. Lovely.

  4. I knew the sounds of sikus but not the others. Music is indeed an international language! You don't necessarily need complex instruments to expressed yourself.

    1. So true, b.i. Our simple amadindas are amazing that way! People are enchanted by them.