'Boom-ba' Lovers Unite at Dugan's Pub
While you have probably never heard of a "boom-ba," it has a Wikipedia page, which means it must be legitimate.
Aside from reading the page, you can experience the instrument in action at 6 p.m. every Wednesday at Dugan's Pub in Pinehurst. A local band consisting of Dick McGowen, Bob Kendall, Barb Siegel, Betsy McCann, Rita DiNapoli and Alan Riley, called "The Boombadiers," performs at the pub on a weekly basis.
According to Kendall, the boom-ba, or boombah, depending on where one looks, has a rich cultural background rooted in 16th or 17th century Germany.
"It was basically a pole with cymbals on the top and a drumhead attached to the pole," he says. "It had a little devil's head on top of the pole. They beat the drumhead and the cymbals with a stick at funerals. It was called the devil's fiddle back then, and they did it to drive the evil spirits away."
A German immigrant came to the U.S. during the 20th century and began making and selling boom-bas. Another man, Edward Scott, bought the business from him and has continued the tradition ever since.
"It's not a manufactured item. It's a crafted item," Kendall says. "He told me today that he's made 3,017 of them so far."
The instrument has changed over the years. There is no strict definition of a boom-ba, as Scott will often add different things per customers' tastes.
"Scott sort of customized them," Kendall says. "He made them similar to a pogo stick and added some things. That was in the early '50s."
McGowen used to own a restaurant named the Limeport Hotel in Limeport, Pa., where he and some of the other members, including Siegel, would perform. They were responsible for bringing the boom-ba to the Sandhills.
"Dick and I started playing in 1984 at his establishment," Kendall says. "Then we moved down here and brought the boom-bas with us."
From there, the band grew to the membership it has today. Even Riley, who owns Dugan's Pub, decided to join a few weeks ago.
"The reason I bought one was because there was a Wednesday night coming up where there was just going to be one player here," Riley says. "I didn't want anyone to have to play alone, so I went ahead and bought one."
Because it is a percussion instrument, the boom-ba is relatively easy to play. A few of the members have played the drums in the past, but all one needs to be able to play is some sense of rhythm.
"The beauty of this instrument is you need no lessons," Siegel says. "Anyone can pick it up if you have an arm and can hit something."
The simple pleasure of hitting a percussion instrument is part of the reason people love it. Riley jokes that it lets him take out stress that he cannot take out on his employees. Siegel had nothing but praise for the boom-ba, something which she says has "snowballed into a phenomenon."
"It's hard to explain," Siegel says. "You really have to experience it. You're going to want to order one."
"It's almost as good as sex," McGowen adds.
Leigh Pember is a rising sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill and is a summer intern at The Pilot.
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