Harvard Students Perform Amazing Boomwhacker Covers of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin,” Toto’s “Africa” & More

Short­ly before he died, Queen’s front­man, Fred­die Mer­cury, famous­ly remarked, “Do what­ev­er you want with my life and my music, just don’t make it bor­ing.”

Mis­sion accom­plished, thanks to the Har­vard Under­grad­u­ate Drum­mers, more com­mon­ly known as THUD.

The ensem­ble, which rehears­es week­ly, is will­ing to con­sid­er any­thing with per­cus­sive potential—plastic cups, chalk­boards, buckets—as an instru­ment, but is best known for its vir­tu­oso boomwhack­er per­for­mances.

boomwhack­er, for the unini­ti­at­ed, is a light­weight, hol­low plas­tic tube, whose length deter­mines its musi­cal pitch. When smacked against hand or thigh, it pro­duces a pleas­ing­ly res­o­nant sound. Col­or-cod­ing helps play­ers keep track of which boomwhack­er to reach for dur­ing a fast-paced, pre­cise­ly orches­trat­ed num­ber.

In the­o­ry, boomwhack­ers are sim­ple enough for a child to mas­ter, but THUD takes things to a lofti­er plateau with cus­tom craft­ed sheet music sys­tem­ized so that no one play­er gets stuck with an impos­si­bly com­plex task.

“A lot of it real­ly comes down to feel and mus­cle mem­o­ry,” THUD’s assis­tant direc­tor Ben Palmer told The Irish Exam­in­er. “After play­ing the song enough and inter­nal­is­ing it, we have a sense of where our notes come in. Also, many times our parts will play off each oth­er, so we give each oth­er cues by look­ing at each oth­er just before we play.”

(That Ker­mit the Frog-like voice chim­ing in on THUD’s “Bohemi­an Rhap­sody” cov­er, which many view­ers have mis­tak­en for an obnox­ious audi­ence mem­ber get­ting a lit­tle too into the pro­ceed­ings, is actu­al­ly an ensem­ble mem­ber help­ing the oth­ers stay the course.

As seri­ous as the group is about rehearsal and pro­vid­ing local school kids with free inter­ac­tive music lessons, their live shows lean in to the silli­ness inher­ent in their cho­sen instru­ment.

This good humored self-aware­ness defus­es the snarki­er com­ments on their YouTube chan­nel (“So this is why Har­vard’s tuition is so expen­sive…”)

Check out more THUD per­for­mances on the group’s YouTube chan­nel, or help defray their oper­at­ing costs with a pledge to their Patre­on.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Pachelbel’s Chick­en: Your Favorite Clas­si­cal Pieces Played Mas­ter­ful­ly on a Rub­ber Chick­en

The Orig­i­nal Noise Artist: Hear the Strange Exper­i­men­tal Sounds & Instru­ments of Ital­ian Futur­ist, Lui­gi Rus­so­lo (1913)

The Health Ben­e­fits of Drum­ming: Less Stress, Low­er Blood Pres­sure, Pain Relief, and Altered States of Con­scious­ness

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inkyzine.  Join her in NYC on Mon­day, Sep­tem­ber 9 for anoth­er sea­son of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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