When you hear a cloudburst of sounds of clang, boom, ting-a-ling, rattle, toot, jingle and thump, what instrument do you conjure up? It’s called a boomba. It’s a percussion instrument consisting of a five-foot pole on a spring base, with tambourine, cowbell, wooden block, and Swiss bells attached. You can play it with a drumstick, shake it or bounce it to the rhythm of polka music.
Thanks to my sister, Mary Alice, who in the early 80s, requested, “Carole, let’s put together a boomba and surprise the sisters!”
We did just that. Once fall arrived, we invited our families to Leather Corner Post (a country bar where boombas were played years ago) , in Lehigh County, for an evening of playing our boombas. There were quite a number of people in the room playing their own boombas. You don’t have to be an expert at stomping and banging a boomba. You just have to love to have fun.
I haven’t played my boomba since that night, but I did learn about a group, who called themselves the Happy Boombadears Club. The group formed in 1974, with approximately 200 members, but not all were active. Over the years, the group has been featured at the Barnsville October Fest, at Vet Stadium for a pre-game show with the Phillies Phanatic, the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, and Atlantic City.
Today, in talking to Molly Keinert, a member of the group, told me, “We’re in our 80s now and there are only 8 active members. We meet once a month and entertain at nursing homes, churches and hospitals.”
If you wish to contact the group, you can contact Pat Palencar 610-837-9681.
Molly’s husband, Ron, informed me, “Our purpose is to bring cheer and goodwill through music and service to our community. Although we’ve never played at a funeral, one of our members was buried with his boomba.”
The boomba, with a variety of names is a folk instrument known throughout Europe. In France, it is called basse de Flandre, in England, it is a drone and string or bladder fiddle (an inflated animal bladder or animal hide) and used by traveling musicians. In Germany, it was called the bumbass, where cymbals were added to the top or bells. The Germans brought it to this country in the 1800s and it is now referred to as the boomba.
All I can say is, the boomba is a lot of fun, even if only played for one night!