Frankfurt Mix: Stewart CopelandOne Two Testing, February 1985.
What would be your favorite instrument of 1984?
The umbompa-bompa from the l'eau noir pigmys of the Congo basin.
A very popular one -- any particular reason?
It's the only one that hasn't been over-used at the Hippodrome.
What sort of a sound do you get from that?
Kind of a groaning percussion sound.
How's it made? Did you see it made?
No -- it's elephant skin stretched all the way around a huge tortoise shell. There's only a very small area that you hit at the top. You know pigmys live on elephants? That's pretty terrible until you realize that the pigmys are more of an endangered species than the elephant. There's more elephants than there are pigmys. So they hunt these guys, and when they catch one they cut it open and climb right inside and grab the heart, and eat it on the spot. It's all part of their ritual.
Elephants are of course a lot bigger than pigmys, aren't they?
Yes, there's a famous joke told to me by the village elder of the l'eau noir pigmys: what is the red mush between an elephant's toes?
This is a pigmy joke? Fairly soft of self-deprecating chaps.
It's actually a joke I remember from kindergarten. I did not tell it to the chief of the l'eau noir pigmys.
I imagine your stay would have been a shorter one had you have told it. Have you actually used this umbombpa-bompa?
I was not actually able to use it. I was able to tap it a few times, but when they play it, it's a ritual. Ritual and magic are very important to them. You have to tread very lightly on their sensibilities.
Yes, I can imagine.
I wasn't actually allowed to jam on it with them or anything.
You don't actually own one of these objects?
No, it's not like in Kenya, where anything they make they're ready to sell. This is their ritual drum which has a lot of magic bound up in it. They can't just sell it. It's like an American coming over here and buying the Houses of Parliament.
They wouldn't sort of swap it for a video recorder?
No. For some soap, maybe. Or some rice. They wouldn't touch a VCR unless it was Beta.
Well, that's a good choice for '84. I'm sure that due to your endorsement that'll become a big instrument of '85. But what instrument would you like to see make it in '85?
The human thigh.
Thigh? Or sigh? S, I, G, H?
No, T, H...
Oh, T, H, I, G, H?
Yeah, er, no. No, that's not how you spell thigh.
T, H, I G, H, isn't it?
Is that how you spell thigh? Oh, OK, I never was very good at spelling.
Yeah, I've written down in front of me and it looks OK. Do you foresee any miking problems with the thigh?
No, what you do is you compress the hell out of it. It sounds like a humungous snare drum.
Sounds like a what?
It's a humungous, back-beat.
Is that word not in the English language?
It might be. What does it mean?
It means ginormous.
All right, new word of today. Good. So, er, you reckon you might incorporate the thigh into your percussive battery?
Well, I'm working on it. It's an instrument that requires dedication and perserverance. And a lot of patience.
Do you think there'll be a Linn chip with it on?