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From Renaissance England to modern day Holland and Spain the sound of the humble rommelpot (meaning rumble-pot in Dutch), zambomba (Spanish), putttiputti (Italian) or Brumtopf (German) has provided the background to popular folk music and song for centuries. In Holland the instrument is associated with winter celebrations and was traditionally made by children from scraps at slaughtering time. They would then go from door to door, singing, playing and asking for gifts of food, (more often pork-based products than sweets). The instrument is pictured in several Flemish paintings of low-class musicians, perhaps most famously Jan Molenaer's “Two Boys and a Girl making Music” where the other children are playing a violin and a helmet with spoons respectively.
Our instruments are made from specially thrown pots by historical potter Annot (Nicola Young) and goat skins and cane or wooden sticks fitted by musician and Wait Lizzie Gutteridge. The stick is tied into the skin before the skin is tied onto the pot. It does not go through the skin but sits in a fold within it. The noise is produced by stroking the stick so that the fingers just catch on it, a bit like nails on a blackboard or a roll on a tambourine. The vibration that this causes is transferred through the stick to the drum head which amplifies it.
Our pots come in 4 sizes:
Small – 6-8cm diameter £15
Medium – 12-14cm diameter £24
Large – 18-20cm diameter £36
Jumbo – 26-28cm diameter £45
Like any instrument, playing the rommelpot well takes a combination of practice and skill. Hold the instrument off the ground so that the air can flow through the hole in the base as this will help the sound. Wet your fingers and very loosely and gently run them down and up the stick, as if polishing it. Gradually increase the pressure until you start to get a sound. The strong beats are best played on the down or push stroke, with a lighter sound on the pull or up.
Our instruments are hand made from natural materials and therefore no two are exactly the same. They each have their own individual voice that varies with the shape of the pot and the thickness and tension of the skin. This is part of their charm.