Home » Science News » An orangutan with a jazz single, apes who jam. You can't make music like these monkeys can!

An orangutan with a jazz single, apes who jam. You can't make music like these monkeys can!

Blassy Boben | Updated on: 17 September 2016, 18:25 IST
Do orangutans, chimpanzees and other non-human primates like music? Can they play it? Here\'s all you need to know.

Proud of your ability to hit that elusive high note, or play that musical instrument, or drop that sick beat? Take a seat, fellas. You are so-not-unique. There are many like you in the animal kingdom.

Intelligent animals have been a source of fascination for decades now, with countless studies being conducted on their cognitive capabilities. Humans share a number of traits with orangutans, monkeys and apes. But did you know that music was one of them?

Here are a few nonhuman primates whose musical prowess will leave you with an inferiority complex:

Kluet the Orangutan

Kluet, a 20-year-old Sumatran Orangutan who lives in Australia's Adelaide Zoo, released his debut single in August this year.

Kluet used Garage Band, and some help from his trainer, to create Give Me a Clue - a jazz number that was released on 19 August, 2016, World Orangutan Day to raise awareness and funds for his species. Buy the single here.

Musical siblings Kanzi & Panbanisha: Bonobo apes

Kanzi, a 36-year-old bonobo ape who was studied closely for signs of intelligence, kept researchers occupied with his extraordinary abilities in the fields of human speech and tech-savviness. He also displayed another surprising talent: music.

Kanzi and his half-sibling Panbanisha were adept in using lexigrams. The two have a combined vocabulary of over 400 words. Their mother, Matata, lived to be one of the world's oldest captive bonobos. Panbanisha died in 2012, a few days shy of her 27th birthday.

Watch her create tunes with music legend Peter Gabriel here:

Here's what Gabriel had to say about the talented siblings, as reported by Des Moines Register:

"Panbanisha was so thoughtful with her music, and when we asked her to work with one finger (which she interpreted as one finger on each hand ) she made some beautiful soulful and smart music.

Kanzi, the superstar, was perhaps feeling a little jealous of Panbanisha's success and seemed determined to outdo her, casting aside his towel, as James Brown might discard his cape, to sit down and create very masculine rhythmic music. With these two performances there was absolutely no way that the intelligence, musicality and sensitivity of our fellow apes could ever be denied."

Koko the gorilla

Hanabiko Koko - better known by her last name - is a 45-year-old female western lowland gorilla who is best known for her command over the American Sign Language (ASL). Interestingly, Kanzi learned to sign from watching videos of Koko.

A team of researches recorded Koko playing with instruments like recorders, harmonicas and party favor whistles. The team - comprising Marcus Perlman, Francine G Patterson and Ronald H Cohn - found 38 sequences from 17 of her playing bouts.

"When Koko plays these instruments, she adopts a pattern of breathing statistically different than her normal one. In both frequency and forcefulness, she alters her breathing in a volitional way," the researchers said.

What does science say?

Music for monkeys?

Studies have proved that monkeys respond to music. No, not the music on your playlist, but music that is designed to appeal to their ears. Don't believe us? Check out this species-oriented version of Metallica, for gorillas. This tune was created by Psychology Professor Charles Snowdon and musician David Teie.

The two found that monkeys have a vocal range about three octaves higher than that of humans and a rate of calling that is two-times the speed of human speech.

How they react to music

According to research by the research published by the American Psychological Association, different nonhuman primates react differently to different genres.

"Chimpanzees may perceive the strong, predictable rhythmic patterns as threatening, as chimpanzee dominance displays commonly incorporate repeated rhythmic sounds such as stomping, clapping and banging objects," the study observes.

Gorillas hum and sing while eating

A study by Eva Luef, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany, has revealed that gorillas sing to express contentment with their meal.

Luef observed two groups of wild western lowland gorillas in the Republic of the Congo to find that gorillas made two specific types of noises. (Listen close)

1) A steady, low-frequency tone that sounds like a contented sigh.

2) Notes that are strung together to resemble a melody

The future

Researchers at Melbourne Zoo are working to see if the orangutans in captivity will pick up musical abilities through an interactive game. Researchers claim that the primates may soon be able to use the game to produce different music that is controlled by their bodies, ABC's Catalyst reported.

Still proud of the fact that you can play a few songs on your guitar? If you still aren't convinced, check out this promo video for the 2012 Volt music festival in Sweden.

First published: 17 September 2016, 18:25 IST