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WULA Drums - Page 4 - Djembefola - Djembe Forum

Meeting place for buying and selling instruments
User avatar
By e2c
#4068
Hmm.... They've got plenty of very plain shells, both in the shop and ready to ship next week. (I just talked to the head of their repair shop today.) It's actually *easier* for them to get - and sell - the basic, undecorated (or barely decorated) shells than the "over the top" ones, per him. (The really ornately carved shells aren't to my taste, either...)

Was talking with them about possible shells for a bass djembe. They will be talking with one of the owners (Tom Kondas) who's in Conakry right now, getting the last-minute details of the next shipment finalized. *Lots* of new shells - for djembes and duns - coming soon.

Edited to add: It *is* true that some people buy the more ornamental-looking shells and resell them with a fair amount of markup. (I'm blanking on site/shop names offhand.)-One of the guys who is a big reseller is located in Seattle. he also has djembes from Senegal on his site (painted stems; not my cuppa!)
User avatar
By Dugafola
#4460
my buddy just got his container of drums from the same ppl making the Wula stuff...

not real impressed. none of the over the top stuff was included but just basic leg designs. but they were not clean at all...most of them looked pretty hacked. a couple had big knots in the leg that seemed like they could be knocked out if you hit it wrong. they were all skinned with cows and some were tuned up for solo and some were for bass accompaniment.

he's bummed to say the least.
User avatar
By e2c
#4462
OK, so... that really sounds bad. But I'm not sure what you're trying to say about Wula.

am also uncertain as to what you mean by "the same people" - carvers, Tom and Michael, or ???
User avatar
By Dugafola
#4464
same carvers. the main guy is named Mangham. he is the big Baba decorator. everyone in CKY knows him.
User avatar
By e2c
#4466
Ah, OK - thanks for the clarification.
User avatar
By bops
#4467
Dugafola wrote:my buddy just got his container of drums from the same ppl making the Wula stuff...

not real impressed. none of the over the top stuff was included but just basic leg designs. but they were not clean at all...most of them looked pretty hacked. a couple had big knots in the leg that seemed like they could be knocked out if you hit it wrong. they were all skinned with cows and some were tuned up for solo and some were for bass accompaniment.

he's bummed to say the least.
That sucks. I know that there are others who are getting similar shells. The difference with Wula is that Tom Kondas actually lives in CKY for about 6 months out of the year overseeing the drum building process. He'll reject any shells that aren't up to his standards. And he plays a big role in the drum-building process (ie. he does a lot of the work himself). So, unfortunately, it sounds like your guy got the factory seconds.
Last edited by bops on Tue May 26, 2009 12:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
By e2c
#4468
Yep. Tom's right in there, very hands-on. Makes a huge difference.
By bubudi
#4477
did your friend actually order the drums personally from the carver? makes a big difference whether he was physically there to inspect the goods and if he spoke to the carver and developed a good working relationship with him.
User avatar
By Tom
#4531
Dugafola wrote:my buddy just got his container of drums from the same ppl making the Wula stuff...

not real impressed. none of the over the top stuff was included but just basic leg designs. but they were not clean at all...most of them looked pretty hacked. a couple had big knots in the leg that seemed like they could be knocked out if you hit it wrong. they were all skinned with cows and some were tuned up for solo and some were for bass accompaniment.

he's bummed to say the least.

Hello Dugafola,

This is Tom Kondas writing. I am co-owner and director of production for Wula Drum in Conakry, Guinea. I visited this site the first time just a few days ago after after my partner in Wula, Michael Markus, informed me of an ongoing discussion regarding Wula. I am happy to see the discussion but was disturbed to see the statement that your friend received a shipment of drums from the same people that make Wula drums. Unfortunately the statement is false and misleading. The people who make Wula drums are Wula employees and work exclusively with Wula. We have a small group of carvers who I believe are the very best and I personally control the quality of their work, from the log to the finished shell. The ability to directly control all aspects of the drum making is what I consider to be the most significant difference between Wula and nearly all the other companies in the drum business. I’ve been working with most of the Wula employees for seven years and we’ve become a pretty tight knit group, with a single minded purpose to produce the best quality possible. The suggestion that Wula does not make its own drums is surprising to hear, especially when you say that the shop we buy from produced low quality “hacked out” drums for your friend. Whoever is informing you on Wula’s production in Guinea has been misinformed themselves, so please fact-check beforehand. A statement like this can be damaging. Regarding Moungam, the truth is that he operates only a decorative carving/mounting shop and not a shell carving shop. Occasionally Moungam buys shells from the various shell carvers in Conakry, decorates and mounts them, and sends them to customers abroad, but mostly he just does decorative carvings on the drums of others. In 2004 I had bought some shells from Moungam (before establishing Wula with Michael), and on occasion Moungam has bought shells from Wula. Moungam used to decorate some our drums (for Michael since 1995 and for me since 2003) but since 2007 he has rarely worked for us; the reason being is that we want our decorative carvers to work directly inside our shop and Moungam is not able to do so. Moungam is my longtime friend and a talented decorative carver, but the fact that he is now copying the unique decorative style that Wula developed (after having separated from Moungam) and putting it on the drums of others has become a problem. It creates confusion with customers when he copies our carving style/designs on to lower quality drums. Case in point is your suggestion that Moungam produces drums for Wula. When I was in the US several months ago a Conakry drum shop owner named Mr. Kaba (Dada) conspired with a Wula employee (a newcomer hired in 2008) to secretly take photos of the drums inside our shop. Kaba sent the photos to his customer Alex in Montreal, CA and said that these were the drums that he was in the process of making. Alex gave him a full container contract but when he arrived in Guinea he found that the drums were not the same drums in the photos. He agreed to allow Kaba to finish the contract if he would work with Moungam to complete the container shipment. Kaba accepted, so Kaba and Moungam worked together to try to produce the same quality and look of the drums in the photos. Alex returned to Canada and waited for his drums but when they came I hear he was very disappointed. I could very well be wrong, but I'm thinking your friend who received the shipment may be the same Alex in Canada. If not then this problem is bigger than I thought. Most of the shops in Guinea have adopted techniques introduced by Wula. That is natural and I have no problem with it. But there are many who are trying to pass off their drums as Wula drums, or as you say “made by the same people who make the Wula stuff”. That is why we began branding our drums and putting water marks on our photos. Two years ago one Guinean drum maker found a photo of one of our drums on the internet; a beautiful djembe which we had given as a gift to M’bemba Bangoura. Not realizing it was one of our drums he e-mailed the photo to Michael (he was trying to win his business) and said it was one of the drums he himself had made. We were pretty amused. Our decision was to not give him a contract to produce our own drums.

Anyway, I just wanted to set the record straight and to let those following this discussion know that the people who actually do make Wula drums are uncompromising craftsmen. Also, there are other comments and questions in this thread which I would like to respond to, so you will probably be hearing from me in the future. Thanks for listening.

Sincerely,
Tom Kondas
Wula Drum

PS-After I wrote but before I posted this response I was able to receive information regarding the shipment of drums you spoke of. Not long ago Moungam prepared and air shipped twenty cow skin djembes along with many cow skins to a customer in the US. It’s unfortunate that your friend did not receive what he had hoped for, but I am sure that Moungam actually wanted to satisfy your friend and develop the business with him. The drum business in Conakry is filled with extreme difficulties, for both the customers the drum makers, so any buyer should be aware.
User avatar
By bops
#4534
Hey Tom! Welcome to the forum. Glad to see you. Hope everything is well.

Thanks for chiming in, looking forward to your input in discussions going forward.
User avatar
By e2c
#4537
I'll second bops' welcome, Tom - nice to have you aboard!

Am very much looking forward to hearing more from you.
By jedge76
#10002
Well, I thought I'd revive this thread with a couple of questions and statements. I can't remember if I made any of these points in another thread or not...but it's been a while.

Firstly, I ended-up canceling my order with Wula last year. I gave them $725 for the drum I posted about above. That was early February. It was early April, 2009 and my drum was still not in the States. I do not blame Wula, I want to be clear about that. The guys there are extremely helpful, polite and knowledgeable. I just couldn't see having that much money tied up for that period of time with nothing to show for it. Well, times (money) got rough for the rest of the year and I had to delay my djembe search. Still without a drum as I write.

I think I will end up going to Drumskull due to their proximity to me. I get to try the instrument out in person and have the guys there give me their personal recommendations.

That said, honestly I'm a bit on the fence about getting into djembe. The main concern I have lies in a thread I was reading concerning ear damage. I would be practicing mostly in my home with an occasional trip outdoors, I imagine. I have played several other instruments in the past. Hearing the full sound of a good instrument is a huge part of the joy I take from playing. If I have to try and dampen the sound or buy ear plugs, that seems to potentially take away a lot of my enjoyment I would have for the instrument. Is this just me or is it a real problem for others? Is it feasible to play indoors, by myself, and not expect irreversible ear damage? I hope this isn't a needless worry. I love the djembe--I've been watching youtube video after youtube video on djembe for the past year.

Thanks to all the wonderful members of this forum.
User avatar
By bops
#10007
Hey man, good luck with your drum search. Sorry to hear you canceled your order - those are some truly outstanding drums. However, Drumskulls will also deliver an excellent product. In fact, I waited over six months for my drum from DSD, and it was worth the wait. But I didn't put the full amount down, for the reason you mentioned. Anyway, I'm sure you'll find one that suits you.

As far as hearing damage is concerned... sure, jembes are loud, but so are many other instruments. You shouldn't really have to worry about it unless you're playing with a group. I still only wear my earplugs if I'm playing with at least 4 drummers or amplified music. Going to a concert or even being in a crowded bar can be just as loud or much louder than playing your jembe in your house. It's all relative. I really hope you decide to stick with it and don't let the noise level deter you.
User avatar
By michi
#10009
If you like the djembe, don't let concerns about hearing damage stop you. It really is a matter of common sense: if you expose yourself to extended high-level noise, you will eventually damage your hearing. So, limit exposure and, when you do go places where there is extended high-level noise or when you play with large groups for extended periods, wear earplugs. (The custom earplugs are excellent and deliver a sounds spectrum that is almost indistinguishable from the real thing, only not as loud._)

You will most likely get warning signs before you get tinnitus. (At least, that's how it happened for me.) It's just that I was silly enough to ignore them and ending up with (a fortunately mild case of) tinnitus. If your ears ring after a session, that's your ears telling you "mate, that wasn't so good, don't do that again please."

So, pay attention to that and, otherwise, enjoy your drumming!

Cheers,

Michi.
Last edited by michi on Mon Jan 18, 2010 8:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
By Djembe-nerd
#10011
I wear ear plugs all the time, the etymotic ones for now. When I am playing at home, which is a small room and the volume isn;t high, I push them less inside than when at the class where I push them a little more.

I have to go to the custom ear plug someday soon, right now i am just lazy or maybe satisfied with the etymotic.
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