Other west African instruments, like balafon, ngoni etc.
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By drtom
Hey Djembefellas,

This isn't about a West African instrument, but it is an "other instrument". Besides, this board can use an infusion and I think some of you will enjoy the long story that goes with it.


Not too long ago, Ali, a graduate student, was in Istanbul on a research project. During this visit, Ali happened to witness the performance of a musical ensemble that impressed him so much that he was inspired to master the darbuka (better known as doumbek in the West).

Upon his return to the US, Ali sought out teachers and began to learn to play the doumbek in earnest

Less long ago, Ali returned to Istanbul to continue his research. By this time, Ali felt ready to upgrade to a finer instrument than he had been playing. He wanted a drum like those played in the performance that had so inspired him on his previous visit. He also sought out a guru to guide him along the path of a doumbekfola.

As fate would have it, his guru came to be none other than one of the master doumbekfolas in that ensemble that had originally set him on his path. And as fate would further have it, his guru presented to Ali that very doumbek he had played in that inspiring performance. You see, Ali had been unable to find such drum on his own.

Fate and Good Fortune did smile upon Ali.

Now, this treasured doumbek was made of clay, and Ali managed to drop it on his way out of Istanbul and back to America. Needless to say, the drum was shattered - but not as shattered as Ali.

Ali could not bear to part with his precious drum, so he brought it home any way.

Eventually, Ali learned of Dr. Tom's miraculous capacity to seemingly raise the dead.

This is what I received.

You see, Ali had carefully placed his already badly broken and still fragile drum in its protective case, and packed that in a box with good padding on all four sides but no padding on the top or bottom. The drum was further damaged on its way to me.


This really is a long story. I guess I'll let you chew on that and come back later with another serving.
Last edited by drtom on Sun Nov 05, 2017 5:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.
User avatar
By drtom
So where was I? . . . Right!


So this drum reached me in even more pieces than it had been sent. Here's a reminder.

Ali's clay doumbek had been completely broken to pieces at the top before leaving Istanbul, this is what he sent me. The top of this clay shell is in pieces and the drum head is torn. The only thing holding the top of this shell together is the skin wrapped around it.

This is what reached me. When Ali saw what you've just seen he was heart broken. :cry: He had sent me his doumbek hoping that I could repair it, but all hope had been shattered.

Hope was reborn when I told Ali his drum's repair had already begun and was progressing.

Here the pieces at the bottom of the case have been reattached. Almost done! OK, there's still a lot of work to be done, but you can see real progress. :dance:

This had been at least a 100 piece jigsaw puzzle (and that's not counting the really small pieces that would be left over), and easily the most extensively damaged clay shell I had taken on. But I love a challenge and had rolled up my sleeves.

Keep in mind the shell must not only be reassembled, it must be pieced back together and have the strength to withstand the mounting of another drum head. And the bearing edge is almost completely gone!

Well, I not only meant to mount another drum head: I meant pull it tight.


Break time.
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By drtom
Time now for the third and final installment of Frankenstein's Doumbek . . .


The base of Humpty Dumpty had been put back together again, but the most difficult and critical of the reattachments had yet to be done.

Notice that I've referred to this drum as 'Humpty Dumpty' for obvious reasons. What I had actually begun to call the drum was 'Frankenstein's Doumbek', even when updating Ali on his drum's progress. Ali didn't seem to mind this and actually took to it himself quite readily, as you'll soon see.

Notice also that the work of putting the pieces of a broken clay shell is really not difficult at all - it just takes a lot of time, patience and foresight. The tricky part is putting the last piece into place. You see, these pieces have no give at all, so putting that last piece into place without breaking takes care and planning. The pieces must be put back in place in the proper order and it may be necessary to set the last two or three pieces simultaneously in order to have enough "play".

With time, patience and foresight the shattered shell was once again in one piece. Badly scarred but in one piece. Now the question remained whether this monstrosity of a drum shell would accept a new skin. Would it have the strength to withstand the pressure and stress I planned to apply? Would Ali's drum live once again?

It's alive! It's alive!
In the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!

Ahem, sorry . . .

The doumbek is whole again, and Ali is very happy. Despite its tortured history and enduring scars, Ali loves his drum.

A few weeks after welcoming home his darbuka, Ali presented me with the following to post on my website as a testimony to my work:

The shattered darbuka shatters a heart
Flakes of clay rain down, all shred apart
Hopeless, I write an RIP in her chapter
Presuming only an imaginary resurrector could draft her

A doc online claims an impossible procedure
To revive the patient and even make her thrive
With nothing to lose, the clay dust is shipped to the West Coast
The last shot before it's cremated and truly toast

Fast forward a month – signs of life appear in my inbox
(Progress seeming tighter than a 5th Botox)
The clay meticulously gelled together
The goat head that grazed on top
Now swims deep a fish head after a swap

She lives again and the RIP mark is nigh
Dr. Frankenstein a padowan compared to this jedi
Thank you, Drum Dr. for your kind hands and heart
I am cherishing her fresh start
User avatar
By michi
That's a really nice story, and the poem is a sweet way to say "thank you"! You have the patience of a saint ( or at least Dr Frankenstein) :)