I feel fortunate to live in a city that is home to so many talented buskers. In fact, in my good-deed travels so far, I’ve encountered an erhu player with great rhythm (see Day 45) and a bagpiper with great legs (Day 110).
Today, as I strolled along, I heard the otherworldly strains of a harp-like song. It was coming from a wide wooden stringed instrument played by a tall Asian woman.
She created the sounds by striking the strings with the cutest mini-mallets. If the music hadn’t been so beautiful, it would have looked as though she was playing an elegant version of whack-a-mole.
I approached her as she was playing and told her how lovely it sounded and asked her about her instrument. Turns out, she was playing a hammered dulcimer (as opposed to a stone-cold-sober dulcimer … sorry, couldn’t resist).
I’ve heard of these instruments but never realized what they looked like or what one sounded like when played on its own.
The tips of the musician’s fingers were wrapped as if she had dozens of paper cuts, and she’d sometimes use them (instead of the mallets) to strum some of the strings. Very cool. I added to the coins in her case and listened for a while before moving on.
When I got home I checked Wikipedia for more details on dulcimers and here’s what I found out:
“The Hammered dulcimer is a stringed musical instrument with the strings stretched over a trapezoidal sounding board. Typically, the musician holds small hammers in each hand to strike the strings. The word dulcimer is Graeco-Roman, meaning “sweet song,” it derives from the Latin dulcis (sweet) and the Greek melos (song).”
Sweet song indeed. And you don’t get much sweeter a singer than Canada’s own Joni Mitchell, seen here in 1970 playing an Appalachian dulcimer and performing California (credit to henhenstoll via YouTube). Enjoy!