This documentary, as entertaining as it is informative, demonstrates and celebrates the ways in which the human body can be used as a musical instrument. Animated by the heartbeat, our bodies are naturally responsive to internal and external rhythms, and music is an intrinsic part of the human experience.
THE HUMAN HAMBONE highlights the talents of a wide variety of both amateur and professional musicians and dancers throughout North America, from front-porch artists to stage performers, who use every part of the human body--head, feet, hands, mouth, arms, legs, torso--to make music. From merely using one's hands to slap out against thighs and chest the beats of the traditional song "Hambone," or the bodily expression of more complex musical rhythms, to the syncopations of tap and step dancing or the amazing, drum-like sounds the mouth is capable of making, this documentary reveals not only how the body resonates with natural rhythms but also how it can express a surprising variety of musical tones.
The film incorporates interviews with scholars and archival footage to trace the historical roots of body music back to 18th-century American history, when African slaves were forbidden to use drums, and so resorted to the body itself as a percussive instrument. THE HUMAN HAMBONE also examines body music within an anthropological framework-such as the unconscious expression of synchrony, or body language, between two people--as well as a biological context, demonstrating how the body is filled with natural 'clocks,' which account for the fundamental human connection with rhythm.
More than just an educational film, THE HUMAN HAMBONE is a showcase for an impressive roster of talented artists--Sam McGrier, the DC Coalition Step Team, Radioactive, Click the Supah Latin, Sandy Silva, Artis the Spoonman, and Jimmy Slyde, "King of Slides," a world-renowned tap dancer and winner of an NEA National Heritage Fellowship Award--whose infectious performances, conveyed through imaginative editing and gorgeous cinematography, will delight viewers of all ages.
“Informative and entertaining... will no doubt inform and appeal to audiences of all ages, expanding awareness of the basic musicality of humanity. As an educational tool, it stimulates creative thinking and musical experimentation.” —Ethnomusicology
2006 Society for Visual Anthropology Film Festival
Best Documentary, 2006 Zagreb Documentary Film Festival
2006 Montreal International Festival of Films on Art
2005 African Studies Association Film Festival
2005 SILVERDOCS Documentary Festival
2005 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
2005 Sound Unseen Festival
2005 Nashville Film Festival
"Wonderful! One of the virtues of this film is the measured and credible manner in which it traces the historic use of body music, in part by using excerpts from interviews with historians. But the best and most delightful moments are found in a wealth of performances... It really is hard to imagine how anyone could come away from these performances without a sense of astonishment and, maybe, a new understanding about racial unity."—Leonardo Reviews
"Fascinating! An infectiously fun and fresh look at an old art form. Suitable for studies in music, dance, sociology, ethnomusicology, minstrelsey, anthropology, and history (especially Black history)."—Music Educators Journal
"Recommended! Engaging... Excellent editing and judicious use of voice-over keep viewer interest focused."—Educational Media Reviews Online
"Wonderful...delightful...I suspect there are very few films that would be of interest to such a broad range of audiences."—Ballast Quarterly Review