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Florida transplant turns palm tree into unique instrument

Berkeley Grimball saw a palm tree pod on the ground in his yard. He examined it and wondered if it would make a unique sound. He calls his new instrument a "podharp"

GULFPORT, Fla. — Inventors are always on the lookout for something new and exciting. Berkeley Grimball expected his one-of-a-kind instrument to sound different than anything ever made before.  

“I’m the world’s best podharp player,” the Gulfport man said with a chuckle Tuesday afternoon.

He’s also the only "podharp" player in the world. Grimball invented the stringed instrument six weeks ago. The Florida transplant decided to build a new instrument from the palm pod that had fallen to the ground from a tree in his front yard. 

It took Grimball just about a week to make the instrument.

“One of the palm pods fell down and I was astounded by how thick and tough they are, these palm pods. Then I had one that was particularly symmetrical, and I was just sitting in the backyard one day and I thought, ‘I wonder if it would have any sonic qualities,’” said Grimball, who moved to Gulfport a little over two years ago. “I started putting strings on it and it was just a beautiful inspiration.”

The podharp, essentially, is made of string meticulously placed around the opening of a thinned-down palm tree pod. The strings are placed at varying lengths and created a sound similar to a standard, upright harp when plucked. Grimball plays almost daily in his home studio and began playing his podharp outside the SumitrA Espresso Lounge + on Tuesday mornings a few weeks ago.

He said he loosely based the design on an African kora. Overall, Grimball is pretty happy with the end result.

“It’s got a unique way of making music,” he said. “You can kind of make an instrument out of many things, but the thrill was the fact that it actually sounds so good. It really is such a relaxing sound.”

Grimball plays about a dozen instruments but says the podharp is his new favorite. He hopes to one day get a group of people together to play podharps together to form an orchestra of sorts. 

You can see Grimball’s podharp in action on most Tuesday mornings around 11 a.m. in front of SumitrA Epresso Lounge +, located at 838 Beach Blvd. S., in Gulfport.

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