Tuesday, March 18, 2008


During my stay in Sevilla, I discovered a small drum shop, called Naranjo Music. The shop mostly sells Western-style drum kits and accessories; but there was a wide selection of African hand drums, as well.

Historically, all of Andalucia, formerly known as “Al-Andalus,” has had a profound connection to Northern Africa and the Islamic world, in general. Indeed, this is not the proper forum to discuss the broader cultural influences that Muslim dynasties had on Christian Spain from the Eighth Century to 1492; nonetheless, this history has, invariably, created ties between the Andalucian and North African music.

Although there was a good selection of African drums, the one drum that caught my eye was the most unconventional: it was a pair of tom-tom drums made from PVC water pipes. Like a timbale set (think Tito Puente), a pair of cowbells and six-inch splash cymbal are mounted above the two drums.
The pipe drum set certainly would be classified as a “found instrument,” as the materials used to create the drum were never intended to be used for that purpose. To give the drum an even more makeshift feel to it, the pipes were colored in with marker, not paint. Somewhat surprisingly, the sound of the drums is pretty solid.

While I have seen pipes transformed into drum shells before, there was something about this particular set that just seemed like such an “honest” effort by the craftsman. Rarely do innovation and practicality form such a straightforward marriage.

While this drum does not boast any aesthetical value, the ingenuity of the materials used to create the instrument is highly commendable. Surely, the drum does not define the drummer: the music coming out of the drum is all that matters.

Drums can be crafted for thousands and thousands of dollars, but at the same time, they can be crafted from household materials for next to nothing. It is rather incredible to analyze the spectrum of drum crafting: when I think how complex (and costly) the process of drum crafting at Asano Taiko in Japan was to the simple (and cheap) process of crafting the pipe drum, it is really neat to see such variation. But, it seems that sometimes simplicity just works best when crafting a drum.

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