THE GROUND IS PARCHED, but the lush, tropical sound of rain splashing to the ground is luxuriously elongated. It stops, it starts, it rushes and then it lingers. An instrument native to South America, the rain stick is the source of this water music. Locally, it is the product of instrument maker Gino Zenobia and comes in varying sizes: from 3 1/2-foot bamboo stalks to dramatic seven-foot lengths ($60 to $125 without exterior adornment; carved and painted, the price can run up to $250). "We hammer in inch- to 1 1/2-long pegs," Zenobia explains, "then we cap one end and fill it with seashells, rocks and beans. Not everything will sound like rain."
Zenobia, a drummer fascinated with African and other ethnic rhythms, started by modifying instruments and building those he couldn't find. Today he produces about 50 types of percussion instruments, among them the Brazilian berimbau, African slit drums, African talking drums and the Australian didjeridu, a long tube that makes buzzing, humming sounds--"a prehistoric, primeval sound," Zenobia says. Zenobia Music, by appointment only; (714) 494-7636.