Sunday, April 18, 2010

cool new drum

Back in February my younger brother Mike was in India for a few weeks on business, and emailed me asking if there were any musical instruments I might want? Well now there's a fine idea! :)

So I asked him to pick up what is a called a dhol, or dhola, drum. So Mike found a local shop that made them, and chose a medium-sized one. The best part was the price: $60 Cdn., and that included the sticks and case. Of course then Mike had to shlep it from India to England to Ottawa. Thanks bro!

From Wikipedia: "The drum consists of a wooden barrel with animal hide or synthetic skin stretched over its open ends, covering them completely. These skins can be stretched or loosened with a tightening mechanism made up of either interwoven ropes, or nuts and bolts. Tightening or loosening the skins subtly alters the pitch of the drum sound. The stretched skin on one of the ends is thicker and produces a deep, low frequency (higher bass) sound and the other thinner one produces a higher frequency sound. Dhols with synthetic, or plastic, treble skins are very common."

Mine has a plastic skin with mechanical tuning on one side, and a traditional animal skin with rope on the other. The skin side is the "bass" tone, and the sound is modified by use of Syahi, which is the black tuning paste one sees on tabla drums. For this type of drum, usually played with sticks that would wear the paste down, it is applied on the inner side.

The plastic side is cranked up for a very cracking sound. It is really loud! :) When I use this drum indoors I often play it with my hands, or maybe the stick on the bass side. If I start using the stick on the high side it gets pretty hard on the ears in an enclosed space.

I had one unfortunate thing happen with this drum. Shortly after getting from my brother the shell developed a crack! I took off the plastic skin to find that the split started about halfway down and made it right to the rim of the high side. The shell was under such tension from the tuning that it overlapped itself. The good news about this was that I just applied carpenter's glue to the overlap, then popped it back together (obviously the tension had been greatly relieved since I had to remove one skin). Two straps around the drum to hold it for 24 hours, and the drum seems fine.

A friend of mine with experience in imported instruments said that the shell would have been desperately lacking moisture. It came from humid India, got stored in various cold airplane holds, then got taken out in the dry Ottawa winter. He said theat first thing I shuold have dne was to remove the heads and apply oil (any vegetable or nut-based oil) to the shell. I duly did so (using olive oil, since that's all I had on hand) and the drum has remained stable.

I've mainly used this drum with the Propeller Dance classes, and it is a lot of fun when the dancers really need to be stirred up because this thing can do it! :)

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