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How to make instruments - the chook and the punji

Sirocco's philosophy is that everyone can play music. To be master musician or a minuscule musician you don't need to spend a fortune on elaborate instruments. Some of the most powerful music is created on simple bamboo tubes. It is a shame that people are put off creating music by the unnecessary complexity of the instruments. So why not have a go at a simple instrument.
Did you know that you can just use a length of plastic pipe and by blowing across the top play lots melodies? A child's instrument - not in the least. A similar one is found from Hungary ( the Fujara, a Hungarian overtone flute)to Norway (the Willow pipe)-there is some talk that it is the basis of the fascinating Hungarian folk music.

So have a go - what have you got to lose?


Materials needed:

-   2 x plastic drinking straws (and lots of spares for mistakes!)
-   Pair of scissors
-   Glue to stick the straws together


1.  Take one straw and chew the end until it can make a sound when it is blown. The chewed end of the straw should look like the shape shown in the diagram below.

2.  Take another straw and do the same.

3.  With one straw cut six holes in it. The easiest way to do this is to bend the straw at the right spot cut one of the corners.

4.  Place your fingers over the holes ( just like a recorder without a thumb hole) and blow into the straw. You created the notes in the same way as a recorder.

5.  Glue the drone pipe to the chanter and blow into both at once.

Where do you put the holes? You can work it out from the chart below. If the straw is 10cm long then the first hole is 0.84  x(times) 10cm from the end you blow in! the last hole is 0.45 x 10cms from the end.

Punji holes

Snake Charmer - Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Materials needed:
- One Styrofoam cup - any size will do
- a piece of string
- a button
- a piece of cloth

Equipment needed
- a pair of scissors


1.  Put a hole in the centre of the base of the cup just big enough to thread the string through .

2.  Thread the sting through and tie it to the button - on the inside.

3.  Draw the button to the inside base of the cup ( see diagram)

4.  Wet the cloth and pull down on the string quickly - this friction is what produces the unique sound

The friction of the damp cloth as it slides (best in jerky movements) down the string produces vibrations in the string (like a violin). This vibrates the bottom of the cup via the button. The sound so produced is amplified by the cup and sounds like a chook.

You may think that the Chook is a Sirocco invention - sadly it isn't. The friction drum ( as it is called) is used around the world. In music of south America it is called the cuica. Rather than string it has a stick that is attached to a skin and is on the inside on the drum.


My favourite drum is the Rommelpot. A simple drum to make. It can be seen in the works of the Flemish painters as it was used for music in Renaissance Europe. It is made from a pot (we use a brass garden pot). The drum skin has a stick tied to its centre and the skin stretched over the open end of the pot. The stick is rubbed up and down with a wet cloth. It used to be played by children at Christmas time out side the houses of the townsfolk - and I've been told - the occupants paid them money to go away!

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