Monday, November 22, 2010

Finished Central Arctic Drum

Trying out the Drum
The Central Arctic drum reproduction is ready to ship up the line to have the canvas airbrushed to match the look of the original artifact.  It should look pretty much identical to the original drum when its all done.  Up until the canvas went on I tried to keep the construction as traditional as possible, sticking with wood, sinew and a bit of hide glue to create the frame..

Finished drum and drumstick
 I did have to use a few non-traditional materials to work with the cotton canvas because it doesn't behave like a rawhide or gut drum head.  I hid a few staples under the braided sinew binding to hold the canvas tight.  The canvas just wouldn't shrink and hold itself in place like a real skin would.  I also applied a non-fray fabric glue around the edges of the canvas to keep the cotton cloth from fraying.  I don't really like admitting to doing stuff like that, but it was necessary for this particular project.

Here's a really dark video clip of me playing the drum.  Its too dark to see much, but at least you can hear the sound of the drum.  To play this drum, its necessary to moisten the canvas with water in to get it to resonate.  I'm certainly not an expert at this and there are a lot of very talented Inuit drummers in this province, so I hope they forgive (and help correct) my clumsy attempts to play and explain their instrument. 

Pine Drumstick
The drumstick I was reproducing didn't have any wrapping preserved on it, but today, many drummers wrap their drumsticks with rope or cloth to deaden the sound and prevent the clacking of wood-on-wood.  With this style of drum, you don't actually strike the top of the canvas with the drumstick, you strike against the wood hoop on the underside, flipping the drum back and forth as you play.  Its a very hypnotic and visual style of drumming.

Overall, it was a satisfying build and if I get photos of the finished drum in its display I'll be sure to post them in the future.  I take away from this project a lot of respect for Inuit drum makers and drum dancers.  While researching this build, I came across a couple Dorset Palaeoeskimo drum frames from Bylot Island that were made in nearly the same style.  I think it would be fun to try making one of those Palaeoeskimo drums with a rawhide or gut drum head.

Drum: Poplar, Tamarack, Canvas, Sinew / Drumstick: Pine
Photo Credits:
1 & video: Lori White
2-4: Tim Rast


  1. That drum gives me chill's.
    Nice job!

  2. I wonder what an entire traditionally-built modern-style drum kit might look/sound like?

  3. Very interesting! Have you done anything pertaining to the Mi'kmaq in NL?

  4. @ Lee: Thanks! - they can have a pretty haunting sound.

    @ John: I don't know. My guess would be that it would look more different than it would sound, if it was built by an experience drum-maker. I was surprised to read while researching this that synthetic drumskins have only been around since the mid-1950s - before that animal skins were standard.

    @St. John's Mom: Hmm... I can't recall any specific Mi'kmaq pieces at the moment. I seem to remember sending some early Woodland style points to Nova Scotia several years ago, but nothing from Newfoundland comes to mind.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  5. are these drums make for private sale, if so how much and how much for shipping thanks, mike from manitoba

    1. Hello Mike, I do occasionally make reproductions for private sale. I generally work off of existing artifacts so every piece is a custom order. Someone who specializes in drum making could probably fill your order faster and cheaper than I could. In this neck of the woods, I believe there are Inuit drum makers at the St. John's Native Friendship Centre. They may be able to help you out directly, or put you in touch with an Inuit drum maker in Manitoba. Cheers, Tim

  6. are these drums made for private sale and if so how much for the large ones and shipping? thanks mike from manitoba


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