Meriam buluh or bamboo cannon is a type of home-made firecracker which is popular during the Hari Raya festive season in Malaysia, and during the New Year's day celebration in the Philippines. Like other fireworks, bamboo cannons are illegal as stated in Malaysian Explosive Act 1957; ironically, more Malay children turn to the more dangerous bamboo cannon as an alternative to commercial firecrackers which were made illegal by the government.
How it works
A typical bamboo cannon consists of a large bamboo and a mixture of calcium carbide and water. The chemical reaction formed as a result of mixing calcium carbide with water inside the bamboo produces acetylene, an explosive gas. The acetylene explodes when a flame is introduced to the mixture. The explosion may cause severe injury if not handled carefully.
Kerosene is also used as a fuel. Less than a cup (about 200ml) of hot kerosene is poured into a small hole near the breach of the cannon. A lighting stick is used to ignite the fumes and fire the cannon. Then fresh air is blown into the small hole and the cannon is fired again. It takes some practice to make the loudest bang. The bamboo is usually around 4 to 6 inches in diameter and 4 to 5 feet long.
This is not us, just a picture to show how one play with meriam buluh.
I promise in my previous post to write a story about meriam buluh. For us in the kampung, our fasting month won't be complete without meriam buluh. How we to know that playing meriam buluh was against the law(according to the above statement). We just wanted to have fun. We couldn't afford to buy the fire cracker as we only got money to buy food only. We used kerosine as the fuel to ignite our meriam buluh. But the sound was not so fantastic. Some of us came out with a lot of ideas on how to outdo our friends one. Whoever had the loudest sound was consider like champion. I played meriam buluh with my friends too. Don't be suprise that I also helped my brother in making our meriam buluh the loudest.
This incident happenned when I was still very young. If I am not mistaken, I was about 6, as my brother was 5 years older than me. My brother decided to play meriam buluh with his friend. When I wanted to tag along, he said no. They played the meriam buluh near the surau, about 200m from our house. We heard a very loud bang came from their meriam buluh. It was not a usual bang. The villagers ran the surau to see what happen. We saw blood was everywhere. One of my brother's friend was covered with blood. My brother got a slight injury as he only watched the friend playing. The friend lost two fingers. After further investigation, we found out that they did not use the kerosene, as we always did. This time they use carbide to make the sound louder. And carbide can explode easily and the meriam buluh also can break quite easily too.
Do you think we learned our lesson? The answer is yes. At least for that year only. When Ramadan came again the following year, we went back to our ways, have fun with meriam buluh.