Moa Subong wanted a traditional wind instrument that would complement his band’s brand of Naga folk-flavoured rock music. The search was an exercise in futility, so he ended up inventing the bamhum.
The bamhum — an acronym of bamboo and humming — is arguably the only musical instrument invented in the past 100 years, others invariably being improvisations. “The readily available material to make a musical instrument was bamboo, but we did not want something as difficult to play as the flute. Besides, we wanted a sound that would best suit howey,” says Moa.
Howey, by the way, is a new genre of music Moa’s five-member band Abiogenesis has created. It is a blend of Naga folk tunes, throaty sounds and modern rock-based music.
Unlike the flute that requires blowing into, one has to hum into the bamhum to produce unique sounds. “It’s a wind instrument that sources resonant sounds from the user’s vocal chords, and does not require finger-play as in the case of a flute,” explains Moa, 47.
The sounds are produced by two rattles assembled on opposite ends of the knot that works as a resonance chamber the user hums into. For all its simplicity, the medium-sized bamhum requires a crack-resistant bamboo locally called ‘anie’.
According to Moa’s wife and lead vocalist Arenla, the bamhum is an easy-to-use wind instrument that requires no training and theoretical lessons to learn. “All it entails is controlled breathing and an inclination to hum, and one can progress from a learner to an expert in no time. It can be played as a solo instrument, as backup for a band or in an ensemble with many bamhum players playing various parts of a song.”
Though Moa had unveiled the bambum in May 2005, it drew attention after Abiogenesis released their album Aeon Spell some time back.