I was invited to make instruments for the school playground at the Druk Padma Karpo School in Shey Ladakh (the Indian Himalayas) twice. Firstly in 2010, when the school was hit devastating flood and mudslide in the middle of my trip, then I was invited back again in 2013 along with Alyson and Hannah – two Royal Academy woodwind graduates. Both trips were funded by Kinship – a UK charity that promote creative play, who have extensive contacts in the area.
The school has a Buddhist ethos and obtains funding for children from remote mountain villages where there are no schools. These pupils board from the ages of 7 to 17. The UK based architects Arup won awards for the Sustainable design of this building which has also been used in a famous Bollywood film “Three brothers”.
My aim was to create some musical instruments for the playground using locally found materials. For the infants we made a Xylofence splitting locally grown willow branches that were rejected roofing materials as they are not straight enough.
Using wood offcuts from the ongoing building work at the school we made a xylophone, and a pile of metal legged chairs that were damaged were turned into three metallophones with a range of 2 octaves.
Two sets of drums were made from old oil drums, plastic barrels and empty paint and varnish tins.
We bought and measured a cane flute in G from the only music shop in Leh and found plastic conduit tubing the same diameter for sale in the plumbing shop. We made 5 flutes from this and added them to the recorders and penny whistles we brought out with us in the new instrument library – a bag full of wind instruments from which the children can borrow instruments and a small register that children sign each time they borrow an instrument.