You have probably seen someone do this; tapping the watermelons before deciding which ones to buy, right? The technique is an age-old way of ascertaining if the watermelon is ripe. The person tapping the watermelon is looking for a hollow sound, which implies that the watermelon is ripe. If you feel that you are unable to carry this task out, listening to Nigerian traditional music can help your ear achieve the attuning that they need for doing this trick right.
That is what an international group of physics and music researchers believe. Nigerian researcher Stephen Onwubiko has discovered a link that exists between the drumming sounds found in conventional Nigerian music and the sound of drumming that shoppers attempt on watermelons in the market. He has formed a team with researchers from Australia and Britain for quantifying the phenomenon. The findings of this research are slated to be presented at the 177th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America that will be taking place at the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky.
Onwubiko said, ‘Most people don’t have much idea about the noises around them or how they affect them. Everyday experiences, even decision-making, are influenced by the sounds around us.’ He is spending time with watermelon sellers and consumers across Nigeria for learning about their perception of sounds, area of research that is known as psychoacoustics. Tracianne Nielsen, from Brigham Young University in Utah, is busy in an analysis of the frequency spectrum of the conventional Nigerian drum, while music researcher Andrea Calilhanna from the University of Sydney in Australia is focusing on a mathematical approach to music theory aimed at quantifying these sounds.
Nielsen says, ‘The sounds of ripe and unripe watermelons are heard in traditional music. An African drum pattern is made from the same two sounds.’ The method enables detection with a 60% level of efficiency. Onwubiko further says, ‘People do not realize the amount of important information that is conveyed in the sound around us and how these sounds impact cultures. In order to preserve cultures, we need to analyze traditional sounds and their impact on everyday life experiences.’
As per sound and vibration experts BKSV, ‘As watermelons ripen, their natural frequency drops, and so does damping. If a watermelon is overripe, the damping increases dramatically, resulting in a dull thud when you tap it.’