May 23, 2019 | Updated: 11:35 AM EDT

Do You Need Help Choosing A Ripe Watermelon? Listen to Nigerian Music

May 14, 2019 10:15 AM EDT

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Do You Need Help Choosing A Ripe Watermelon? Listen to Nigerian Music
(Photo : Image by LoggaWiggler from Pixabay)

If you want to know whether a watermelon is ripe or not, the quickest way to know is by tapping on it. And according to an international group of physics and music researchers, in case it is hard for you to detect the subtleties of the sound, listen to some Nigerian traditional music to get your ears attuned.

A researcher in Nigeria, Stephen Onwubiko, has discovered a connection between the sounds of drumming in traditional Nigerian music and the sound of fingers drumming on watermelons in the markets.

A classically trained vocalist and researcher on African musical acoustics, Onwubiko has teamed up with Tracianne Neilsen, a physicist from Brigham Young University in Utah and Andrea Calihanna, a music researcher from the University of Sydney in Australia to quantify the watermelon-drumming phenomenon. It is expected that Neilsen will make the presentation of the findings at the 177th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America which takes place May 13 - 17 at the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) is the premier international scientific society in acoustics devoted to the science and technology of sound.

Onwubiko explained that most people don't have much idea about the noises around them or how they affect them. The sound around us influences everyday experiences, even decision-making.

As a field known as psychoacoustics, Onwubiko is working with watermelon sellers and consumers in Nigeria about their perceptions of the sounds, while Neilsen is analyzing the frequency spectrum of the traditional drum, the igba. Calihanna is working with a mathematical approach to music theory to quantify these sounds.

The researchers propose that the ingredients of traditional Nigerian music - rhythms and pitch with shifted accents, nonaccented rhythms, and syncopations - are the perfect ear-training for watermelon identification.

An igba is cylindrical and is between 70 and 75 centimeters long. The pitch-pattern analysis can be used to measure, determine, and correlate the internal ripeness and quality of watermelon with a pitch from a Nigerian drum. This method allows identification at a 60 percent level of efficiency. And as pointed out by Calihanna, sounds are an integral part of the culture.

He said further that people do not realize the amount of relevant information that is conveyed in the sound around us and how these sounds impact cultures. Humankind needs to analyze traditional sounds and their impact on everyday life experiences to preserve the traditions.

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