Africa: Surma – Thumb piano

music Thumb piano


We’re listening to the sound of a thumb piano, a small instrument that’s played in many parts of Africa. For one tribe in Ethiopia, this music is often heard during a certain season of the year, a time reserved for creativity and courtship. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.

“In Southwest Ethiopia, on the border of Sudan, you come into one of the most incredibly remote areas of Africa.”

Angela Fisher has traveled and lived in Africa for many years. She has a special fondness for this place and these people — the Surma.

“Surma land is like an absolute paradise. The Surma are very peaceful and very quiet, serene people who are in love with their own lifestyle. They feel that God has given them everything and the cattle they own are probably the best cattle in the world. They have a very beautiful courtship season which happens after the harvest, and this is a time where there’s a leisure period amongst the Surma, and they put their heart and soul into being creative. And both men and women spend each day going down to the local rivers and they paint their bodies with a mixture of chalk and a paste of water, and they slather the body with chalk and then they fingerpaint beautiful designs over female and male bodies. At this time, young girls sit under trees that are just close by to the river, and they play the thumb piano, and the Surma have perfected many different tunes on the thumb piano.”

Photographer Angela Fisher is co-author, with Carol Beckwith, of the book African Ceremonies. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Africa: Surma - Thumb piano

The Surma people of Ethiopia celebrate courtship season with exotic body painting and music played on thumb pianos.
Air Date:09/06/2000
Scientist:
Transcript:

music Thumb piano


We're listening to the sound of a thumb piano, a small instrument that's played in many parts of Africa. For one tribe in Ethiopia, this music is often heard during a certain season of the year, a time reserved for creativity and courtship. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.

"In Southwest Ethiopia, on the border of Sudan, you come into one of the most incredibly remote areas of Africa."

Angela Fisher has traveled and lived in Africa for many years. She has a special fondness for this place and these people -- the Surma.

"Surma land is like an absolute paradise. The Surma are very peaceful and very quiet, serene people who are in love with their own lifestyle. They feel that God has given them everything and the cattle they own are probably the best cattle in the world. They have a very beautiful courtship season which happens after the harvest, and this is a time where there’s a leisure period amongst the Surma, and they put their heart and soul into being creative. And both men and women spend each day going down to the local rivers and they paint their bodies with a mixture of chalk and a paste of water, and they slather the body with chalk and then they fingerpaint beautiful designs over female and male bodies. At this time, young girls sit under trees that are just close by to the river, and they play the thumb piano, and the Surma have perfected many different tunes on the thumb piano."

Photographer Angela Fisher is co-author, with Carol Beckwith, of the book African Ceremonies. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.