My friend Stefan Thelen came to Sri Lanka from Germany. He’s a celebrated musician and of course he wanted to check out where they make the famous Sri Lankan drums. And of course, I had to tag along and see what was what.
The Sri Madura, Musical Instruments Maker, in Matara (Southern coast) was the only drum maker our guide Nadasiri knew about. When we walked in, there were goatskins tacked to boards everywhere. And flies, too. Lots of them! Before that, I had never thought that a drum skin was from an animal. I had actually never given it a second thought.
Inside the dimly lit shop, people were measuring and making final touches to the skins before they were placed onto the wooden drum. Stefan was in 7th heaven, playing this drum and that drum. I was just trying to get a good photo under the strange lighting circumstances.
Stefan finally found the drum he was meant to have and began the process of bargaining for a price. He came away happy and so did the drum maker.
Back at the hotel, where I lived and Stefan stayed for a 3-week visit, we organized a drum fest using a large raban drum, which is a drum that many people play. The skin has to be heated to get a good sound and so a small fire is lit underneath the raban. At times, while playing, it gets pretty smoky and my eyes would tear up, making everyone laugh!
It takes full concentration, at least for me, to get the beat right. The locals, who are experts at drumming, play faster and faster and faster and I tried my best to keep up with them, often tripping over my own hands. I loved it! So much so, that I went back to the shop and bought a small raban to take back to the US for my grandson.
Stefan checking out the many goat skins.
Skins drying in the hot Sri Lanka sun.
The drum maker's shop.
The drum maker at work.
Tacking the goat skin to a raban drum.
Stefan figuring out which sound he liked.
Stefan with his new drum.
Nadasiri (left) our guide and the hotel
gardener (in green), who is a fab drummer!
The gardener lights the fire to warm the skin.
People sit around the drum to play it.
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