Gaudy gourd band at Tyers

Totally Gourdgeous will perform at Tyers Hall on July 1 and the members will run a series of fun workshops suitable for kids and adults. photograph supplied

Totally Gourdgeous will perform at Tyers Hall on July 1 and the members will run a series of fun workshops suitable for kids and adults. photograph supplied

Latrobe Valley folk musician Penelope Swales was talking with a guitar maker about the difficulties in being paid for the time spent on the craft before the focus turned to a gourd she had bought from an African shop.

"We chopped it in half and made a couple of instruments out of it, some prototypes, and I got really kind of enamoured with this idea," Swales said.

She began selling the instruments made from gourds at folk festivals.

"Even though I was kind of having a bit of a laugh when I made them, I was a bit miffed when people didn't take them seriously," Swales said.

She phoned a fellow songwriter, Mal Webb, sounding out the idea of creating a demo tape of music made entirely from gourd-based instruments.

"We sent it off to the biggest folk festival in Australia being Woodford and we got in and then it was like 'oh my god we better actually put a band together'," Swales said.

Two other musicians joined the line-up in time, Andrew Clermont and Carl Pannuzzo and all have stayed nearly 20 years.

"We dress very gaudily to play our gourd instruments," Swales said.

Making instruments and even tools from hard-skinned fruits is not something Swales discovered on a whim, but rather an ancient art-form.

"In the equatorial countries where they're used, so Africa or Indonesia, South America ... if it fell apart after a few years you'd just make another one, whereas in the west we have a perception that an instrument should last a long time," she said.

"Banjos were originally gourd instruments that were brought to America by the African slaves but then they involved into something quite different ... [banjos] evolved from a little gourd usually with a skin from a cat or a possum."

The band's demeanour on stage is as bright as their clothes, and the lyrics cover a lot of ground, from social commentary and the environment to love and friendship.

"The concepts are often quite sophisticated but it's done in a very happy light-hearted way that the kids can really bop along," Swales said.

Totally Gourdgeous will be taking new material for their proposed fifth album on the road, with an upcoming stop at Tyers Hall.

Bassist Mal Webb will be running a workshop on beat-boxing and looping, suitable for people aged six and up.

He said beat-boxing started with the phrase 'boots and cats', stripped back to the consonants.

"If you say, 'Siri, beatbox for me', she'll go, 'OK, boots and cats and boots and cats'," Webb said.

He said looping was like holding a "multifaceted mirror" up to yourself.

"But the fact that it's a mirror is a little bit scary ... it either amplifies your goodness or amplifies your badness."

Totally Gourdgeous will perform at Gippsland Acoustic Music Club's club night on July 1 at Tyers Hall at 7.30pm and Carl Pannuzzo will be running Vocal Nosh.

Andrew Clermont will run a workshop for stringed instrument players from 3-4.30pm and Mal Webb's workshop will be at the same time.

Both are $5 or free for concession.

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