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Celebrate Uncommon Musical Instruments Day

July 31st, is a day that celebrates uncommon musical instruments. Rather than the frequently found drum or guitar, learn about some instruments that bring unique and traditional sounds and are well-known in their native countries.


Ellerman House

The Marimba- South Africa

Music has always been an inherent part of South African culture. One of South Africa’s oldest instruments, the marimba, is one of the iconic staples in the country’s percussion offerings.

According the legend, the marimba was created centuries ago in Africa by digging holes into the ground, followed by constructing wooden bars to cross over the holes. Bars were then struck to produce a sound similar to the modern-day xylophone. In addition to the wooden bars/keys, the original marimba had suspended gourds below. Each gourd was individually tuned to the pitch of its corresponding key. The marimba is one of the oldest and most popular Southern African instruments, reworked and reshaped over the years to form the modern-day marimba, reaching up to five octaves. Marimbas are often found being played by street performers and used by choirs. 

The ultimate hotels in South Africa’s Kalahari and major cities celebrating local art and culture are Tswalu Kalahari, Ellerman House in Cape Town, and The Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa in Johannesburg. Tswalu, South Africa’s largest private game reserve, preserves and protects the culture and wildlife of the Kalahari through research and conservation methods. Ellerman House is an iconic hotel located in Cape Town showcasing the best in South African culture through art, wine, and food. The Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa is a 5-star, all-suite hotel emulating the essence of the city and country with a property that is a unique blend of rich, cultural history with contemporary touches throughout.

Ellerman House supports the Cape Town community through their new “Music for Meals” initiative. The staff of Ellerman House and many local partners have kept busy by preparing hot meals for the local community at the hotel in partnership with South African rugby superstar, Cheslin Kolbe and his charity, Be the Difference. The community response has been overwhelming, with both need for meals and support from charitable partners growing with each meal delivery.

To support their efforts, Ellerman House has launched the “Music for Meals”, a livestreamed concert series to raise urgently needed funds. With the incredible talent of renowned South African musicians, these concerts, streamed on Facebook and YouTube, help raise vital funds to support the growing demand in the community.


Bom - The Seychelles

Traditional music in the Seychelles reflects the unique colonial history of the island, fusing different instruments and styles to create an unique fusion of African and European sounds utilizing a wide variety of instruments from violins, drums and various stringed instruments. One traditional instrument, the Bom is a one-string solo instrument that was introduced to the Seychelles by enslaved people over two hundred years ago. Created using local materials, including a calabash melon and curved wood with one string , the instrument was traditionally played on the outer parts of the island, where there was no other form of musical entertainment. The Seychelles are also known for their unique blend of reggae and Seychellois beats, commonly known as “Seggae”. Sounds of Seggae can be heard across the many islands of the Seychelles, including at Fregate Island Private, the renowned conservationist hideaway. 

Shō - Japan

Descended from the Chinese sheng, the Japanese shō is a free reed instrument that was introduced in the Nara period (AD 710-794). It consists of 17 slender bamboo pipes that produce a sound that is said to imitate the call of a phoenix when the player's breath is inhaled and exhaled, allowing for long periods of uninterrupted play. The instrument is one of three woodwinds used in Japan's imperial court music. The shō is still played in its original state and can be found in many areas throughout Japan, such as Niseko Village in Hokkaido. A seamless blend of contemporary and traditional concepts, Niseko Village supports the preservation of Japanese culture and arts, while also offering world-class restaurants, hotels, shopping, spas, and onsens. 

Alphorn - Switzerland

Believed to date back to medieval times, the alphorn was used by mountain dwellers in the Swiss Alps to communicate between villages before becoming known as the quirky musical instrument it is today - think Ricola cough drop commercials. The instrument is carved from solid softwood, usually spruce or pine, measures around eight feet in length and has a straight tube with a hollow bell at the base. With no lateral openings, the alphorn gives the pure natural harmonic series of the open pipe. Today, the traditional alphorn can be seen in person during celebrations around Switzerland's National Holiday on August 1. For those interested in joining in the festivities, the Tschuggen Grand Hotel in Arosa, a charming mountain town set in the Alps at 5,900 feet, is the place to be to enjoy an authentic Swiss evening.

Castanets, Spain — Hotel Arts Barcelona

Castanets, also known as clackers or palillos, are a percussion instrument consisting of two hollowed-out pear shaped pieces of hardwood, ivory, or other substance connected together by a cord. Castanets are held in the hand and struck together to make a loud clapping noise for music. Originating and popular in Spain, castanets are played in differently pitched pairs by dancers to accompany classical or folk dances. Castanets are widely known as the instrument used in Flamenco dances, another cultural art form originating in Spain. The famous Spanish city of Barcelona offers many venues to watch Flamenco dances and experience the expertise of castanets first hand. 

After discovering the art of castanets and Flamenco dancing, Hotel Arts Barcelona is an excellent space to retreat and unwind. Hotel Arts Barcelona is an urban, waterfront retreat where the Mediterranean lifestyle meets ultra-stylish design, offering a number of onsite gourmet restaurants, a spa, two pools, peaceful gardens and terraces, and the most stunning views of the city.