Sound of the rain forest

29th September 1995 at 01:00
Latin percussion kit Pounds 199

African long drums, Pounds 65C

Hilean Rain pipes From Pounds 5.95

Belleplates set, From Pounds 179, Age group: infants and juniors.

Music Education Supplies, 101 Banstead Road South,Sutton, Surrey SM2 5LHTel: 0181 770 3866

ore and more musicians are incorporating musical traditions from around the globe into their work. As a result, a gentle flow of new sounds has been reaching classrooms via the concert hall and the recording studio.

The Music Education Supplies (MES) catalogue contains a fascinating flood of choices gathered from several continents. The alphabetical catalogue contents introduce newcomers to the exotic world of the Calabash, the Den-Den and the Dugdugi.

The company helpfully offers a video to guide teachers on the range and the potential of classroom music and its consultancy team includes some well-respected practising music advisers and writers.

Like a number of other specialist suppliers, MES offers consultancy and in-service training work to complement the sale of instruments, which many teachers working with younger children will find extremely useful.

One of the most soothing sounds imaginable is the cascading whisper of the Chilean rainsticks from the MES South American collection. The legend goes that these were played thousands of years ago to remind the gods of the Diaguitas people that moisture from the heavens was welcome. Made from dead and dried cactus. collected with the environmental approval of the Chilean government, the sound emanates from tiny pebbles cascading over the thorns pressed inside the shaft.

The MES XTEK selection of African drums provides rhythm for all occasions - carnival, conversational and musical. The African long drum set, which can be worn over the neck, produces a surprisingly deep resonance for relatively small percussion. The elegance of the three, natural-skinned heads on extended cylinders invites exploration.

There is scope for experiments in adjusting the pitch or muting the tone at the open end of the tubes. The varied pitch of Gato drums complement the sound particularly well.

MES also produces an excellent starter pack of more than 15 Latin percussion instruments for under Pounds 200.

The unusual Belleplates set is available as a diatonic or chromatic set complete with case and instruction guide. The Belleplates are precisely-tuned metal blades in the shape of a paint scraper, secured into a comfortable looped plaster handle which incorporates the sprung beater.

The gentle, resonating tone would be a gorgeous introduction to group playing and collective harmony for young children. They also offer an economic substitute for traditional hand bells and could be used for all age groups and proficiencies.

My nursery experience of music nearly put me off for life. I was meant to help orchestrate singing time in the school hall, using a deformed triangle. I played a few tinny notes, got bored with the sound and headed for the sand-tray. I'm glad I got the chance to play the rainsticks this week.

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