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by Raymond Greenoakby Sharon Armstrong en
The Bodhran
from the makers viewpoint
I
t’s one in the morning and
the North Texas Irish Festival
session at the Radisson
Hotel in Dallas is in full swing.
Eileen Ivers is going full tilt.
Pat Broaders from Bohola is
strumming some odd hybrid
he has dubbed his guizouki,
and Albert Alfonso, dark eyed
and fork bearded, is playing a
crimson-red lacquered bodhran
with a bristling ruff of coarse
goat hair around its rim. It looks
as if it might attack any other
less hirsute drums that stray
into the circle. It’s a demon
drum, but its tones are nothing
short of heavenly as it throbs
and sings under Albert’s expert
hands, underpinning the furious
melody with a complex pattern
of beats.
He leans over towards me and
asks. “A bodhran player and a
banjo player walking down the
street. Which one do you hit with
your car first?” There is a devilish
smile on his face. I have no idea
what to say. “The bodhran player
of course,” he barks laughter.
“Business before pleasure, you
know.”
There are not many bodhran
players in the world of traditional
Celtic music that don’t know Albert
Alfonso. Master percussionist and
drum maker, the only thing more
distinctive than the man himself
is the look, style and sound of
his drums. Of Cuban descent,
‘... At this point of time, I don’t know of any other
he has been playing and making
bodhrans for over twenty years.
His drums that are more than
instrument that has changed as much as the bodhran,
just percussive, in skillful hands
their tonal range makes them an
integral part of the melody. As
it’s pretty much gone from a go-cart to a Maserati.’
a musical instrument, the much-
maligned bodhran is fighting back. “I don’t know who the first guy great. He said he couldn’t break “In the last thirty years I have seen
to do a tunable drum was, but tradition and sell them, but I didn’t development in Celtic music that
“My first drum was a piece of I thought that was a great idea. feel that it was such a terrible thing we take for granted in other types
crap,” Albert smiled, talking Old drums were usually pretty to make a smaller drum. You can’t of music, seen it transform and
about the start of his career as a big. I first saw a smaller drum in get the same music out of a big change, and bodhran playing
drum maker. “It’s really hard to Northern Ireland. It was the drum drum, you can only play really has developed too. People are
make a non-tunable drum and in maker’s own drum, it was about traditionally, and the music itself is getting more music out of them
retrospect, I was kinda naïve.” 14 inches, and I thought it was evolving.” He leaned forward. than ever before. At this point of
The Living Tradition - Page 2
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