Weird & Wonderful

Sound and music… from the strangest sources!

Music has been food for our souls for thousands of years. There are different musical instruments that have been providing us with a variety of music, but you probably haven’t seen or heard of these odd instruments and devices from around the world…

Illustration of a man playing the Morin Khurr to a camel
Illustration: © Rama Ramesh

Music that even camels love

Illustration of a man playing a musical instrument the otamatone
Illustration: © Rama Ramesh

Do you know what the national musical instrument of Mongolia is? Morin khurr. The back story goes like this: Matou Qin, a shepherd boy, found and brought up a beautiful white horse. He took part in a horse race and won but the king seized the horse. Sometime later, the horse escaped and returned to the boy’s house, but not without getting shot. The boy was saddened, but then, the horse appeared in a dream and asked him to make a musical instrument out of its bones and muscles. And thus was morin khurr born! Initially made from a horse’s skull and its hairs, now it’s made with wood and nylon strings. The music is played to mother camels that reject their calves so as to soothe them.

A musical toy

If you are someone who likes practical jokes and annoying your family and friends more than being a dedicated musician, an otamatone is exactly what you need. The musical notes emerge out of the mouth of a comical rubber face when you squeeze it. Sounds freaky? When everyone listens to what comes out, everyone will agree.


Surely that’s not a word you’d even remotely associate with music, but to play the pyrophone organ works on the principle of combustion. In other words, to play this instrument, you have to play with fire. The organ is powered by burning gasoline or propane and the heat as well as the explosive force make their way through the tubes and, well, create music. Good news? The sounds can be regulated. Bad news? Hear an explosion. Isn’t it better to stay at a safe distance?

Illustration of a woman playing the hydrolauphone
Illustration: © Rama Ramesh

Some jolly wet music

Think the idea of playing with water sounds good? Yes, you can play with water jets to produce soulful music with the hydrolauphone. This instrument consists of numerous holes with water streaming out of them, and music is played by covering these jets of water. Think underwater flute meets a pipe organ. A hydrolauphone set up in the garden ensures joy for the musician and the plants around it!

Let’s play cheese

Illustration of a man playing the theremin
Illustration: © Rama Ramesh

Blocks of cheese are for consumption. At least that’s what ordinary people think. Extraordinary musicians think differently. When life gives them blocks of cheese, they turn them into drums! It’s probably best to be gentle on the cheese drums, considering that they cannot bear the brunt that regular drums do!

No touch music

Have you heard of a musical instrument that can play music without any physical contact? Sounds intriguing? Theremin is indeed a weird musical device. All you have to do is to move your hands between two antennas. Sounds sci-fi, as well? Well, maybe that’s why the music recorded at the First Theremin Concert was the first musical broadcast dispatched across space for the benefit of musically-inclined extra-terrestrials out there!

Rama Ramesh is a creative writer who has written stories and features for children’s magazines and has co-authored a series of nanotechnology books for kids.

Rama Ramesh

Rama Ramesh is a creative writer who has written stories and features for children’s magazines and has co-authored a series of nanotechnology books for kids.