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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 2 Issue 127 | July 12 , 2009|


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Sounds & Rhythm

The sound of forgotten voices

Compiled by Nazia Ahmed

AS far back as African tribal history can be traced, the Kazoo appeared in great numbers and in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials throughout the continent. The instrument was used to impersonate animals, the voices of the dead, to make terrifying sounds and to bring messages from the spiritual world.

The most prevalent style of Kazoo, found in many cultures, is a hollow tube with a hole in the middle covered with animal membrane and opened at both ends. Bone, reed, gourds, corn stalks, animal horns and even human skulls were used.
There is also evidence to indicate that an instrument of this general description has been used since prehistoric times by all cultures around the world to imitate animal sounds and as a means of communication. The Kazoo could easily be regarded as one of mankind's first musical instruments. While humming is the term typically used to describe the technique required to play a kazoo, a more accurate term would be singing into the kazoo. Humming with your lips closed around the mouthpiece of the kazoo will not change the sound - you must vocalise or "sing" in order for the kazoo to make any sound. Many people struggles with making any sound from a kazoo when instructed to hum.

The Kazoo as we know it today was designed and built by Alabama Vest and Thaddeus Von Clegg in Macon, Georgia in the early 1840's. In 1852 it was exhibited at the Georgia State Fair and was later manufactured under the name 'Down South Submarine' because of its shape. It soon became one of the favourite instruments of children and street musicians and then found its way into Jazz, Jug and Hillbilly bands.

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