Ice Drumming Sounds Just Like Steel Drums

If January’s seemingly endless stream of snow and subfreezing temperatures have got you down, as they have me ( Thanks, Canada !), this sweet video of Russian percussionists “playing” a frozen lake like a drum might be just the thing to put a spring in your (snow-boot-clad) step: It’s pretty, it’s musical, and it proves that something other than frostbite and discontent can come out of the season of ice and snow. This “ice drumming” performance took place in southern Siberia's Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest, oldest lake, in 2012. Percussionist group Ethnobeat was able to coax musical notes from the ice on the surface of the lake that sound strangely similar to steel drums — instruments one is much more likely to hear in the Caribbean than Russia.

In an interview with The Siberian Times, Ethnobeat organizer Natalya Vlasevskaya said that the band discovered the musical potential of the 25-million-year-old lake by accident. The wife of one of the drummers in the band fell on the ice; Vlasevskaya remembered, “[A]s she landed on the ice, she made a very musical ‘boooooom’ sound — so nice and deep that her husband, who has a very good ear, said ‘Hold on, what was it? How did you make that noise?’” He recorded the sound and brought it back for Ethnobeat, who decided to go to Lake Baikal to play as a group.

Playing in -20 degree Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit) weather, the band is clearly having fun in the video, despite the cold. They drum on the surface of the lake, which is covered in a meter-thick layer of ice, and experiment with smashing large shards of ice for sound. Vlasevskaya recalled, “I will always remember the first feeling…. You see your hand touching the ice, you hear the sound, but your mind just can't take it in. You cannot believe that, yes, this beautiful clear sound is indeed produced by ice.”

Some people have expressed skepticism about the validity of the video, but Vlasevskaya insists it really happened. She told The Siberian Times, “Some people with several musical educations came to say that we were just fooling people, and it was all made up, which is not true.” She added, “Still, I understand precisely why not everyone could believe it was for real. When I first realised Baikal's musical potential, I, too, well remember the feeling of overwhelming excitement and joy — but also disbelief.”

Images: YouTube (3)