bubudi wrote:i've seen some of the higher quality mahogany drums from indonesia. many are small but they are also made at a decent size. i've yet to see anything like a 14" head on a djembe.
The ones I bought are full size and really look quite nice. Still waiting for the bloody delivery to arrive, so I can't post a picture yet...
they still had the lathe turned characteristics, thin walls and thin goat skins, giving them a more ringy/twangy sound, as well as rope that goes brittle after several months.
Inside surface looks good on these ones, I'll add a picture of the inside too. Rope looked OK to me, but obviously won't be as good as Spectra or high-quality polyester rope. I expect it will do the job for two or three reskins, which is OK.
in order to be able to develop proper technique you need a drum that has a playing surface diameter of 30cm at the very least.
Occasionally, I get a male student showing up with a tiny djembe and hands like shovels--one hand is large enough to cover almost the entire playing surface with spread fingers. I always try to be as understanding and polite as possible when I point out that doing this is a really bad idea and will cause bad technique habits that will have to be unlearned later...
in my observation the higher quality larger indonesian djembes are more expensive than the average indo ones, and so often by adding another $100 you can end up with a good ivory coast drum. check out baragnouma on ebay for a reasonably priced good quality ivory coast drum.
I'm selling these ones for A$ 300, less than half the price of a professional quality djembe, so I think that's a good deal.
as far as non-traditional woods go, i have tried teak djembes before and to me they don't sound good at all. the indo mahogany ones are definitely better than the teak ones.
Interesting. Seeing that Teak is quite hard and dense, I would have expected it to sound fairly good. It's possible that cell structure has an influence on sound too. I remember reading an article years ago where scientists had taken microscopic and X-ray images of Stradivari violins. They found that the Stradivaris had unusually high and uniform density compared with other violins, and that the surface texture and pore size of the wood was different. They attributed the superior sound at least in part to these differences. I have no idea whether djembes are affected similarly--but it is telling that the type of wood that is used is a major factor in sound quality and that some hardwoods don't work as well, even if their density is similar to traditional hardwoods.
Another one I would like to try is Kwila (Intsia Bijuga
), which is very dense (830kg/m^3) and bloody hard. It's used a lot for outdoor furniture here in Australia because it is very resistant to decay. I bet it could be used to make very good djembes...
i tried a camphor laurel djembe once (a nice tree but considered a pest species in australia and therefore its use is good from an environmental perspective). they sound only slightly better than teak. if you go for a djembe made from a non traditional wood make sure it's a hardwood. the soft to medium woods don't cut it.
I've played some of George Peel's camphor laurel djembes. They sound good, but not as good as West African species (despite George's excellent workmanship). I'm sure it's due to both its softness (only about a quarter as hard as a proper hardwood) and its low density (around 390 kg/m^3), so it barely qualifies as a hardwood.
as for ghanaian djembes, they are some of the most hacked out drums i've ever seen. they don't have the nice spiral grooves of the mande djembes but are typically splintery in the interior, with uneven thickness and bearing edges and rings that are as loose as a goose on a noose.
Agree. There are some terrible ones around. But I've also come across ones that are well made and, until recently, I would have chosen a Ghanaian drum any time over an Indonesian one. (Before I came across this batch of Indonesian drums I'm waiting for, if someone had asked whether there is such a thing as decent Indonesian djembe, I would have categorically said "no way!") But I think things are changing. The Indonesians have the advantage of a better-quality wood source, so they only need to learn how to carve well whereas, with Tweneboa from Ghana, there is an upper limit to the quality of the sound, no matter how well carved the drum is, because the wood just won't permit better sound.
And let's not forget that Indonesia has access to many different types of (truly hard) tropical hardwoods. I expect that Indonesian drums will become a much stronger force in the djembe market, particularly as the deforestation problems in Africa get worse.