Meet Kalsoom Hameed, inventor of musical instruments

Meet Kalsoom Hameed, inventor of musical instruments

Kulsoom's first musical instrument was inspired by a surna, a mouth-blown instrument that emitted bird sounds
01 Feb, 2016

A talented young ceramist, Kalsoom Hameed, has her cultural roots in Khanozai, a remote village in Pishin district of Balochistan. She was born to a family of Pashtuns, who had migrated from Afghanistan and have been living in Balochistan now for generations.

Like many other artists, she struggled to opt for visual arts and resisted her parents’ desire to go for medical sciences. “I was a silent child, inclined to make visuals from my tender age,” she says of her early days.

After doing her FSc, she says, she announced that either she would study art or won’t study at all.

After doing her foundation course of Visual Arts from the Balochistan University in Quetta, she joined the National College of Arts, Lahore, to major in the discipline of Ceramics Design.

Her initial works were mostly products developed for interiors, small-scale intricate calligraphic panels, mosaics and decorative studio pottery. During studies, she experimented with a wide range of surface treatments and textures.

After tedious efforts in studio practice and academic research for almost three years, she developed a music instrument.

It is inspired by her childhood memories of playing ethnic music instrument called ‘Surna’.

“It was called ‘Borrindo’ in Indus Valley Civilisation and its primitive form is called ‘Ghughu’ in Harrapan Civilisation. These mouth-blown instruments, made with clay, imitate the sounds of birds, she explains.

”Before making instruments, I studied how the sound is created, how we would play hand whistle and produce sounds by blowing an empty bottle.

“I reached an understanding of the working of vocal cords and the sound produced by air pressure in mouth-blown instruments. I learned how air gets split inside, its oscillation and deflection after collision with the surface, which ultimately produces sound,” she speaks as an expert.

She makes the basic forms in terracotta employing ‘Slip Casting’ and ‘Open Mould Casting’ and observes the sound.

The shapes are further developed after the study of various music instruments, including the shehnai, flute and an ancient western mouth-blown instrument called ‘Ocarina’.

The primitive instruments like ‘Surna’ produce sounds only when blown at a certain angle. To overcome the drawback, Kalsoom studied various mouthpieces and added them into the instruments.

“I kept on experimenting the sounds, produced by fusing the round, linear, regular and irregular forms and making instruments of various sizes. It gave me the idea of harmonics.

“I applied the study of harmonics to the forms, which were close to ‘Ocarina’.”

She consulted a flute player, who advised her to put keys into the basic forms she had created thus far and tune them with ‘Chromatic Tuner’.

Acting on the advice, Kalsoom invented a series of instruments which are precisely tuned and very simple to operate as compare to the complicated keys of ‘Ocarina’.

Their shapes are easy to grip and give a maximum air pressure to the keys, which produce loud and quality sound with a little blow.

She is grateful to Qasim Ibrahim, architect and musician, for helping her music-related technical issues.

The quality of her work reflects her passion for the art of ceramics, professional skills and command on the mediums she employed. She has enormous potential to create the products and artifacts based on intensive studies and research.

Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2016