Advice and questions on making and fixing instruments
User avatar
By michi
#14804
At the September 2010 Mini-Guinea camp in Singapore, Li Ho brought two stone djembes. He manufactures them himself. They are made of ground stone, with a binder to hold the stuff together. There was a large language barrier, so I couldn't quite figure out what he used as a binder. As best as I can tell, the binder is not a resin, but something more like concrete or some such. There is also some fabric inside, so the material is somewhat similar to fibrous concrete.

At any rate, he asked Mamady to play one of these djembes and to comment. Mamady said the sound was good but made suggestions for altering the shape. He said that the djembe should be a bit taller (the one he tried was about 56cm high, about 4cm short of the normal height), that the waist should be a bit wider, and that the foot should flare a bit more.

To my ears, that drum sounded bloody nice. If I hadn't known better, I would have said that this is most likely a small-headed Burkina djembe with a thick skin.

The drums appear extremely durable. I'm sure that they won't break easily. And, of course, being made of stone, they are impervious to changes in humidity.

Li Ho is from China and interested in finding alternatives for djembes that avoid chopping down innumerable trees. His website is www.zebradjembe.com (Chinese only).

I've attached two images and a sound clip of Mamady playing that drum below.

Cheers,

Michi.
IMG_0018.jpg
Stone djembe
IMG_0018.jpg (1.31 MiB) Viewed 3758 times
IMG_0025.JPG
Stone djembe - interior
IMG_0025.JPG (1.36 MiB) Viewed 3758 times
Mamady testing the stone djembe
(934.23 KiB) Downloaded 605 times
Last edited by michi on Fri Sep 24, 2010 2:09 pm, edited 3 times in total.
User avatar
By Waraba
#14805
How heavy is it?
User avatar
By michi
#14811
Waraba wrote:How heavy is it?
Not heavy. If it were a wooden one, I'd say it's medium weight, neither particularly heavy, nor particularly light. Maybe a little on the lighter side rather than the heavy side.
rachelnguyen wrote:It is a little hard to tell from the pictures, but it looks like it has a nice Mali shape.
According to Li Ho, the shape was inspired by a drum from Senegal. For my taste, the foot is a bit too narrow, and the waist could be a little larger in diameter. Still, I thought it was a nice drum, and it sounded good. I'd certainly be happy to play it.

Li Ho is working on refining the design to get the sound as close as possible to a genuine Guinean djembe. I think he might actually succeed. Who knows, a few years from now, we might actually have a synthetic alternative that doesn't compromise on sound. An added advantage of these drums is that you can make them in pretty much any color—it's just a matter of adding whatever dye you like.

Personally, I'm not sure whether I'd be happy playing a synthetic drum. But Li Ho is a dedicated environmentalist and argues that, with the djembe taking off in China, that's a lot of trees. If he can come up with a viable alternative, that would be good for the trees and good for him :) I can see his point, with potentially tens of thousands of djembes going into schools and such…

Cheers,

Michi.
User avatar
By dununbabe
#14812
this is a good idea for the djembe explosion on the planet, good for the trees.

One thing that I have observed, from scoping for "rescue" djembes online, to re-build, is that many, many people buy a tree djembe, they play for a while, then they lose interest, and it sits in their house as an end table. It pops, gets cracks, gets warped, the rings rust, and there's yet another wasted tree. (and a LOT of labor for me) I wish that people who stopped playing would sell them, put them back into the world so that people aren't always seeking NEW African djembes. But, since I don't know how to reach every one of those people, stone djembes might be just the thing. Let people buy them, and if after a certain number of years, if they know they are gonna be djembe crazy for life, let them go to the savanna and select a tree. I will always have a special relationship with my tree, but I could see myself buying a stone one as a novelty.
very cool thank u Michi!
User avatar
By michi
#14817
Yes, it's a shame, really. The vast majority of djembes sold end up as coffee tables or gather dust in a garage.

I don't think that djembes have any significant impact on deforestation when one considers deforestation due to logging for building materials, wood chips, furniture, etc. Djembes are a drop in an ocean compared to that.

But still, it sucks to have a perfectly good drum sitting forgotten in a corner somewhere. And it's disrespectful to the instrument. (Not that I would expect anyone who buys a djembe and leaves it sitting in a garage to have any concept of respect for the instrument…)

Cheers,

Michi.
User avatar
By Tom
#14819
I have talked to so many drummers who have drums which just collect dust, and a lot of them have several such drums. A couple of years ago we started what we call the "djembe orphanage" to deal with the issue. We offer an area of shelf space in our shop for those who want to sell off djembes which they no longer want (on consignment). Sometimes we take drums as trade-ins on a new djembe purchase. We came up with the idea because so many of our customers do have hese extra drums that they don't know what to do with, while at the same time there are so many first time buyers looking for a low cost djembe.
User avatar
By michi
#14822
Tom wrote:A couple of years ago we started what we call the "djembe orphanage" to deal with the issue.
Nice idea, I like it! A good djembe will last for generations if it's looked after reasonably well and, with a new skin and maybe new rope, you have a djembe just as good as a brand-new one (if not better, seeing that a lot of people argue that djembes improve their sound with age).

Cheers,

Michi.
User avatar
By Waraba
#14833
So are these stone-age djembes on sale yet????
User avatar
By michi
#14834
Waraba wrote:So are these stone-age djembes on sale yet????
Yes, you can get in touch with Li Ho via the website. Google Translate should be able to help a bit with making sense of the site. I believe the price is around US$ 300.

Cheers,

Michi.
User avatar
By michi
#14843
Hi Kah Heng :)
leekahheng wrote:I can help to translate.
Thanks for the offer. Personally, I'm not planning on buying one—I have too many djembes already :) But I'm sure someone else might take you up on the offer!
Where is your djembe? That ONE.
Camera is broken and I can't take pictures at the moment. Need to see whether it's fixable. Might have to buy another one :(

Will post a pic as soon as I get a chance.

Cheers,

Michi.
User avatar
By bops
#14844
Don't be deceived... Mamady can make anything sound good! :) But judging from the recording, the bass sounds a little dead. It's an interesting idea, I'll give him that. I'd have to feel it to believe it. I just can't imagine it would be very comfortable to play.
User avatar
By michi
#14846
bops wrote:Don't be deceived... Mamady can make anything sound good! :)
Yes :) But I played it too and, somewhat immodestly, I can state that I made it sound good as well :)
But judging from the recording, the bass sounds a little dead.
That was another thing Mamady commented on. (I forgot to mention this in the initial post.) Well spotted!

Mamady's comment was that the bass didn't have enough sustain. In fact he grabbed Jeremy's Guinea drum to demonstrate the difference in bass. The stone djembe's bass sounded very similar but had shorter sustain, so it disappeared quite quickly after striking the drum. With Jeremy's djembe, each bass "hung around longer". I'm pretty sure that this is due to the narrow waist. The small opening dampens the shock wave too much and reflects more of it back at the skin, so the skin can't swing quite as freely as it would with a larger opening.
It's an interesting idea, I'll give him that. I'd have to feel it to believe it. I just can't imagine it would be very comfortable to play.
Absolutely no concern about comfort (other than being a tad too short). That drum was nice to play and nice to hold, no issues there.

Before I came across this drum, I was convinced that all synthetic alternatives are unacceptably compromised. With this one, I'm changing my mind. This is a decent drum that, as far as sound is concerned, I would play without complaint: it's what I'd call a good quality djembe.

Cheers,

Michi.
By leonfaka
#14892
Hi Michi,

Thanks for the post for the "stone Djembe" , I am the friend of the drum Creator, Li Hong (李鸿),we lived in same room of hostel during the Singapore camp, I agreed with Michi that the sound of the Djembe is good, but the bass is a little bit shortly, Li spent about 5 years to develop the material of the Djembe , and now Li still doing the research to make the Djembe much better, I believe you will see more and more good "stone Djembe" made by Li Hong soon.