Tuesday, February 10, 2009
I came back from Mali with a drum that belonged to one of my teachers.
I hadn't intended to buy a djembe. When I went to Mali, I thought I'd pick up a sangban or kenkeni. But after playing on cowskin a couple of times, it seemed to make sense to get another djembe to reskin with cowhide.
So given the choice of all the djembes in Mali, Sidy asked which I wanted and I selected Mazé's. No problem. I paid a reasonable price, Mazé got a brandy new one and I brought home a well loved, well played beauty with a dusty old goatskin and green ropes.
Yesterday the head popped. I was sitting in my office. The drum was in a bag next to my desk. Suddenly I heard a popping sound and panicked for just a moment wondering which drum it was. (I absolutely adore the skin on my goatskin djembe and it will be a sad day when that one breaks.)
But no. Luck was with me and it was the djembe I was intending to reskin anyway.
I spent the morning taking the drum apart. At first I was planning to keep all the ropes, but as I stripped the drum, I decided it would be lovely to really take it down to the bare rings and start from scratch. This is my own drum. It is a beautiful, heavy, round Malian djembe... and it will be great fun to rebuild it. The top of the bowl has a few cracks, so those will be repaired. The outside of the bowl is scratched from years of tunings, so I am going to lightly sand the exterior and oil it.
The rings are brutishly thick rebar which seems to be in great shape, so I will wrap them in fabric and make a new rope harness, at least on the top ring. Then I am going to get some new green rope to string the verticals. I have a cowskin coming from Mali later this month, which Sidy will help me mount.
I am excited because, while I have rebuilt drums before, I have never done one of my own. And the fact that this drum holds some of the spirit of one of my teachers makes it all the more of a joy to work on.