One muggy afternoon, I found myself on Calle Obispo, a rather busy street in Central Havana. As I was walking leisurely, ice-cream cone in hand, I stumbled upon a music shop, Longina Música, that sold both records and instruments.
As I entered the store, I immediately saw a series of ornately crafted drums. These drums could easily be mistaken for sculptures: one drum depicted a little man whose head was the top of the drum, another drum was of a screaming face, and another had complex lattice of woodwork around the body of the drum. It is too difficult to describe phenomenal details of these drums; I would recommend scrolling down to the bottom of this entry to see the photographs.
The master behind these ingenious creations is Eduardo Cordova Reyes, a native of Havana. From an early age, Mr. Cordova studied music, most specifically drums and percussion. At some point in his late teens, he became interested in wood crafting; and eventually, he fused his two passions, and began crafting drums and percussion instruments.
Most interestingly, Mr. Cordova uses his dreams as inspirations for the visual blueprints of his instruments. Through an academic lens, this concept is pretty fascinating to think about; nonetheless, after viewing some of Mr. Cordova’s drums, it all makes perfect sense. His most famous drum is entitled, “El Tambor de las Siete Bocas” (“The Drum With Seven Mouths”) – not the most creative of titles, but the fact that his drums even have names underscores the notion that his drums actually are more artistic than practical. As the name indicates, the drum has seven different faces; and actually, there are seven different (drum) heads on the instrument, so the player can play on any of the seven heads.
Over the course of this past year, I have encountered some amazing drums; and with that in mind, I can firmly assert that Mr. Cordova’s creations have the most intricate craftsmanship I have seen. The drums are more akin to artistic sculptures than musical instruments: he truly has crafted some very special instruments. According to the music shop owner, Mr. Cordova has won several international awards for his craftsmanship.
Much to my dismay, Mr. Cordova was out of town – at a workshop in Italy. I was able to chat with the music shop owners about Mr. Cordova's work, so I was able to learn a bunch about him. A couple years back, a Cuban magazine called Tropicana Internacional, published a pretty extensive interview with him; and somewhat ironically, the article was entitled, “Cordova: el arte del tambor” (or, in English, “Cordoba: The Art of the Drum”).
If you would like to learn more about Mr. Cordova’s drums, definitely check out his MySpace account, http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=102788605, or you can read this article about his life, http://www.archivocubano.org/ravelo.html. Just a heads up, the latter is only in Spanish…
Sadly, I was unable to purchase a drum, as I was weary of bringing back anything from Cuba to the States. That said, I was blown away by what I saw, and those memories are enough for me…
Longina Música is located on Calle Obispo No. 360, between Calle Habana and Calle Compostela.