Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!

"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Regarding Djembe

Thanks for the inspiration for a new post, Bob! Y'all, Bob wanted to know how I thwack my drum. Heh.

First, let me tell you about my drum. I named her Azuli. She's the biggest, heaviest, knees thwackingest, back achingest djembe ever. Really. Wait, what's a djembe, you ask? Hmm...here's a picture for you...not of my Azuli, but of a grouping of djembes that run the gamut in size and style:

Photo totally stolen from these folks, entirely without permission and hopefully without upset on their part.

Azuli is carved from some sort of extra-heavy tree...perhaps a lead tree, or a high-gravity tree. She has carvings in the bell (the lower, skinnier bit). She has a traditional drum head - that'd be goat skin (they're food animals, don't panic...we're not leaving naked, shivering goats wandering around Africa wondering what they did to piss us off). The head, like some of those above, is shaved. Some folks leave the hair on, but I am leery of strange African goat diseases. There have been tales of odd infections from hairs driven up into the hand while playing...and I really don't need Funky Goat's Revenge to add to my list of physical weirdness. I could us a synthetic Remo head (some of the drums in the picture have this kind of head), but I don't like the sound as well. A Remo is better for drumming in the rain or in high humidity when skin tends to soften and give, making the drum sound dull and listless. The Evil Genius' drum has a Remo head on it because they're far easier to replace than a skin head...and kids can beat the hell out of a drum, so who wants to work that hard? A skin head has to be replaced more often, and if it gets damp needs to be tightened either with heat (usually the fire we're drumming around) or by "pulling diamonds", using the rope uprights to stretch the skin a bit more. One can only tighten so much before the head splits, thought. Still, I prefer the sound of a skin versus a Remo, but in the end I'll play whatever's there if I want badly enough to drum.

To play Azuli, I have a few choices.

I can sit upright on the edge of a chair or stool, clutch the drum between my knees and play it that way - and if I had thighs of iron, I would do that more often, but I don't.

I can use the neat drum stand I purchased a couple of years ago, something (exactly) like this:

Photo purloined from this site, where I ordered the thing from

With the drum stand, I can stand up and drum to my heart's content. I like my drum stand, but...it squeaks a bit when I play. It's a great stand, but I don't think it was prepared for a drum of Azuli's weight and girth - I have it set as large as it can go, and I don't even need to strap or clamp her in, it's that tight a fit. Still, it's a useful item to have when your drum has it's own gravitational field. Unfortunately, the stand is inconvenient to carry from place to place, what with having the four-hundred pound drum and all, so it doesn't get used as often as it could be.

I could use a drum strap and stand to drum, but I'm awfully fond of walking upright and remaining hunch-free in my back area. Also, when one has a drum strapped on to play, one can't walk very well, and one moves like one has done something in one's pants that one regrets (because the drum hangs down between one's legs) - so a strap is fine for standing in one place, but not as nice for moving about.

And finally, I can lay my drum on her side and kneel over/sit on her. This is what I usually do at home, alternating with sitting in a chair and holding her between my knees. I sit on the upper part of the drum, where it's widest, and I can easily reach the head for thwacking purposes. It's a bit hard on the knees, though (by now, anyone with a dirt mind has about laughed themselves into asphyxia. I'm sorry. There's just no way to write about this without sounding like I'm made entirely of double entendres.), so I try to have a pillow or something to pad my knees...and sometimes I even put a pillow on the drum so my bottom doesn't feel unloved. That's at home, though.

On the road, the rare occasions I bring Azuli with me, I either sit and drum or use the stand (I bring my wagon when I bring my drum, so I don't have to juggle one thing or another). So now you know more than you ever cared to know about my drum and drumming. Aren't you glad Bob asked??


Becky said...

My son might be in love with you if he knew about this.

Magpie said...


Kyddryn said...

Becky - I'm sure I'd love him right back. :-)

Hiya, Magpie, good to see you out and about!

foolery said...

Stupid question: does it change the sound when you are sitting on the drum vs. when you touch it only to thwack it? I would think you'd absorb a lot of the vibration and change the sound.

Drums are one instrument I never learned to play, other than that one tri-tom solo I had to learn in a band emergency.

Kyddryn said...

Nope, the sound doesn't change when I'm sitting on it, although it travels in a different direction, so anyone up close might notice a difference in volume. The tone itself stays true, though.

The sound isn't coming out the sides of the drum, but rather down and out the "bell" (I have no idea what it's actually called - I'm not that savvy). The wood on mine is so thick, I don't even really feel the vibration when I play. Dang. ;-)