Inventing a musical instrument

Daren Banarsë

Introducing the Unola

Objectives

Add an extra keyboard for the left hand

Incorporate an electronic reed heater

Create a beautiful sound

Use materials which reflect my cultural identity

A Double Melodica

This unique instrument took me over 3 years to make. I wanted to make this a really personal project, so I chose materials which reflected my cultural identity. The keys are made from Irish cattle bones, and ancient ebony wood from India, representing the generations which landed me here in London. The body is a slice of an old tree which fell down in London’s famous Soho square in April 2022.

I wanted to take the time to craft the materials from raw bones and timber, learning skills along the way, and calling on friends to help where I lacked the necessary skills. One innovation was the addition of a battery powered reed heater which stops condensation forming, to maintain accurate tuning.

I developed a new keyboard system – the lefthand keyboard is a mirror of the right, just like our hands naturally mirror each other. That means once I can play something with one hand, I can already play it with the other hand, by using the same movements. I documented the whole process on video.