Stupid instruments

Because I didn’t go all the way to Ecuador to find reasons to be rude about the US, let’s be rude about something Ecuadorian: pan pipes.

The fact that people can produce tunes with them at all is a minor triumph for human ingenuity, but let’s be honest, they’re a rubbish instrument. They make the penny whistle look nuanced and sophisticated. I feel rather the same way about steel bands: I don’t care how typically local and evocative they are, I don’t want to have to listen to them on holiday.

The steel band thing may be influenced by the fact that every Christmas on Oxford Street there are some annoying bastards playing fucking Christmas carols on the steel drums, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a tune played by a steel band that wouldn’t have sounded better on something else. Ditto pan pipes.

5 Comments

  1. 20 November 2006 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    Jesus, you’re turning into quite the curmudgeon! Is nothing sacred???

  2. Harry
    21 November 2006 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Well, I don’t think either steel drums or panpipes are sacred. Though they do say the devil has all the best music, so maybe they are.

    I genuinely don’t like either of those instruments, but the rather unnecessarily aggressive tone of the post was probably driven more by my discomfort at that tourist experience of being presented, as a special surprise treat, with a performance of Maasai dancing/pan pipes/calypso/the thumb piano/the history of Egypt interpreted in the medium of dance/whatever and being expected to admire it for its authentic local flavour.

    The trouble with growing up in a major tourist destination is that it gives you a lifelong distaste at the idea of being a tourist. It’s bad enough being Londoner; I can’t imagine the psychological scarring of people whose childhood was in Stratford-upon-Avon.

  3. 22 November 2006 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    I submit for consideration that Christmas music might possibly sound worse on an accordion. Perhaps a kazoo, digeridoo or trombone. We are of course expecting said instruments to be wielded by those with middling technical skill. With that I wish you a joyful holiday season.

    Saw your post on Funky 16 Corners. If you haven’t already- check out the African comps, “The Music in My Head Vols. 1 & 2.” Mostly from Senegal, they will adhere to your pleasure receptors like barnacles in a high wind.

  4. Harry
    22 November 2006 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Clearly, what the world needs is an arrangement of Jingle Bells for for steel drum, panpipes, accordion, kazoo, didgeridoo and trombone.

    Thanks for the recommendation — I’ll check those out.

  5. 2 April 2012 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    I personally like them.

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