Now Toto’s Africa is Stuck in Our Heads

April Fool’s Day is bad. April Fool’s Day is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. For one day a year, we’re inundated with pieces that can, accurately and without any sense of irony, be called fake news. YouTube is worse. But you know what’s worse than April Fool’s Day? A hundred children playing plastic recorders. But it’s April Fool’s Day, and things must get worse. Here’s a vacuum cleaner playing Africa by Toto.

This is the latest build from [James Bruton] or [Ecks Robots Dot Co Dot UK], who is the king of building just about anything with 3D printers. He’s got a BB8 and some of the cooler Star Wars droids, a Hulkbuster, and openDog. When it comes to confabulating robotics and 3D printers, [James] is the king. But this is April Fool’s Day, and if you’re a big YouTuber, you need to do something annoying. [James] is the king.

This build uses a Henry vacuum cleaner, a canister vacuum with a silk screened face, because why not, and you’re not truly living until you put googly eyes on your Roomba. Also, all vacuums in England are Hoovers, because reasons. In collaboration with [Mothcub], [James] adapted cheap children’s plastic recorders to a Henry vacuum cleaner with a few 3D printed parts, some servo-controlled valves, and a bit of plastic tubing. While using cheap kid’s recorders as the tone generator in what is effectively a pipe organ is interesting (the stickers over the holes are a great idea), this is something that should not be done ever. This idea should not be replicated. These recorders are not in tune and I don’t know how because they’re just one piece of plastic that came out of the same mold.

The servos, and therefore the entire pipe organ, are controlled via MIDI, which makes this the first DIY MIDI pipe organ we’ve seen. It’s a proof of concept, and a pretty good one. It also sounds terrible. This is proof that cheap plastic recorders don’t sound good. The video is below, and I highly suggest skipping the second half.

23 thoughts on “Now Toto’s Africa is Stuck in Our Heads

  1. I hear the drums echoing tonight
    But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation
    She’s coming in, 12:30 flight
    The moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation
    I stopped an old man along the way
    Hoping to find some old forgotten words or ancient melodies
    He turned to me as if to say, “Hurry boy, it’s waiting there for you”
    It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you
    There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
    I bless the rains down in Africa
    Gonna take some time to do the things we never had (ooh, ooh)
    The wild dogs cry out in the night
    As they grow restless, longing for some solitary company
    I know that I must do what’s right
    As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti
    I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become
    It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you
    There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
    I bless the rains down in Africa
    Gonna take some time to do the things we never had (ooh, ooh)
    Hurry boy, she’s waiting there for you
    It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you
    There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
    I bless the rains down in Africa
    I bless the rains down in Africa
    (I bless the rain)
    I bless the rains down in Africa (I bless the rain)
    I bless the rains down in Africa
    I bless the rains down in Africa (ah, gonna take the time)
    Gonna take some time to do the things we never had (ooh, ooh)

  2. “This is proof that cheap plastic recorders don’t sound good.”

    Editor’s Note: Recorders go sharp/flat if overblown/underblown and the pressure differences are freakily critical. This is why every children’s recorder choir sounds like it does.

    (Serious recorder players work on getting pressure so consistent that it’s preturbed only by their heartbeat. And then they work on compensating for that.)

    I’ve heard pros playing moderately cheap plastic recorders. It’s like the joke about (insert favorite musician here) where a reporter says his/her guitar sounds great, he/she puts it on the floor and says “How’s it sound now?”

    1. Since it’s artificially powered and each “horn” only plays one note via valving, I think this no longer qualifies as any sort of “recorder” – likely a great relief to anyone with any regard for recorders – and is now a “calliope” which allows it blatant disregard for any sort of musical subtlety. Obviously.

  3. I have to call BS, or at the very least, shenanigans. No way would you actually be able to hear the sound of the recorders over the sound of the vacuum cleaner.

    1. Not necessarily. Depends on how they miked the recorders, and the mics they used. Place a good unidirectional condenser in the bottom opening of each recorder, and it will reject most of the noise from the vacuum. Either that, and/or some massaging in a good DAW program and you could easily isolate the recorders over the vacuum noise, which would be a consistent noise signal that software could easily filter out.

      If you listen carefully, you can sort of hear the vacuum running in the background.

    2. Well, having seen it in person at the weekend, at HackSoton, I can un-BS your BS. It does work, it does sound bloody awful. Henrys aren’t actually that loud (I know because I own one.) It’s a hack, this is Hackaday, and its, erm a day, so Result!

      I’m kicking myself for not filming it myself, but I was busy entertaining a 9yo at the time.

    3. I wondered as well – as a Patreon subscriber, I’ve already seen the making of video and yes, there are some shenanigans involved. There is another Henry creating the airflow, but it is located in another room and a long hose is used to reach it.

  4. Hackaday has featured a midi pipe organ before.

    Inlet hose port is only half way up from the bottom of the tank, poor design for the sake of having a mouth at the bottom. I can’t figure how blowing is coming out the inlet. It must be also dimmed way down but this won’t regulate pressure hence the somewhat out of tune sound. A vac will run on as little as 12 volts DC or so without the AC hum, very quiet.

    It’s a shame Mr. Dyson has to put up with all that Hoover nonsense. I now have two I have rescued, one fell off onto a highway. The ball on a roll, it is crippled but will make a great canister vac.

  5. In the video, she said Henry sucked up something, which started his downward spiral to insanity.
    What was it she said he sucked up? I didn’t understand it, (a cultural reference? her accent?)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.