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date: 15 November 2019

Pusom toklocked

  • Elaine Dobson


Bamboo clapper of the Lepcha people of Sikkim (North India). A tube of bamboo about 100 cm long is cut some 18 cm below a node and this lower part forms the handle. About 5 cm above the node, 9 cm of opposite sides is cut away leaving two supporting ‘pillars’. Above each ‘pillar’ the bamboo is split lengthwise to the top (where another node closes the tube), and a length of bamboo twine is attached within 1 cm of the top to one of the split sides. One hand holds the handle while the other pulls and releases the string so the two split halves slap against each other. The lower section acts as a resonator, while the cut-away parts give flexibility to the slapping end and also allow air to escape as the pieces slap together. The pusom tok is regarded by the Lepchas as the first instrument created, some 3500 years ago. Evidence for this belief is associated with the construction of a pyramid tower, made of earthenware pots and built with the aspiration of reaching the heavens in order to see their creator face to face; remains of the pot pyramid have been found in Tal-om-partam (‘the plain of the way up’) in South Sikkim. During construction, large ...

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