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time, I don’t know of any other the only thing that Albert’s new “A friend brought me a goat and he went on, “But to be sensitive,
instrument that has changed DaBlondeDrum has going for it. I got my uncle to kill it. It was an and to carry on a conversation
as much as the bodhran, it’s It also has a little something else awful thing to watch. I never did with another musician, there’s
pretty much gone from a go-cart to aid the touring musician in that it again and would only use skins an art to that, and that is what is
to a Maserati. It can be a lead never-ending battle with airport that were from goats killed for not happening a lot of the time.
instrument, not just accompanying security, lack of packing space food. I read up everything I could Somebody who doesn’t know how
tunes but ornamenting them, in and random confiscation. In the find on curing skins, but found that to play fiddle wouldn’t just sit in a
a way that was unheard of just world of post 911 security, Allen the Lambeg drum makers were session and play like crap, they’d
a few years ago. I firmly believe wrenches are not the best things better than me so I started buying get shot. But for some reason
that very few professional touring to try and take on plane. Albert the skins from them. That started the most attractive, beautiful, well
Scottish, Irish or American drum recalled some incidents he had a fashion that has led to drums balanced people will pick up a
players are playing 18 inch non- experienced personally. becoming musical and allowing drum in a session, play it like shit
tunable drums.” players to play sensitively.” and not realise that it is ruining
“All of a sudden, I am at the airport everybody else’s lives.”
Alfonso drums are the bodhran and they are telling me that my Seamus’ opinion of the place
of choice of many well known Allen wrench tuners are weapons bodhrans have in Celtic music As traditional music becomes
professional musicians and can and confiscating them,” he said. is somewhat different from his more and more global, as it
be heard on albums by Flook, “So, the tuners became a pain in counterpart across the Atlantic, or incorporates more and more
Altan, and Susan McKeown. This the ass to put on a plane. I had as many musicians say, across the influences and musical boundaries
has been both a benefit and a to figure out a way to change that, Pond. “I regret that my reputation are breached and the instruments
curse to their maker, inspiring and a button-type tuning system as a player is not better,” he said, change, both physically and in
him move his drums further along was the only thing that would talking about the new breed of the way they are played, camps
their evolutionary path. The well- work. How else was I going to bodhran players. “I would love to are springing up in the trad
known copyrighted DaRedDrum leave the blocks where they were be John Joe or Eamon Murray or music world. In America there
has been joined by its less hairy and able to tune this thing, without your young Martin O Neill, but I are musicians that are ‘more trad
counterpart, DaBlondeDrum. making the inside smaller? That is have to be faithful to my own belief than thou’ when it comes to what
Sleeker to look at and with a brass where the button tuning came in. that a bodhran is for backing and they think is appropriate in this
button, rather than standard Allen The whole thing about the button should fit into the music without particular genre, whilst here in the
wrench tuning system, his new system is that you don’t have to changing the basic rhythm. If I homeland so to speak, traditional
model has a lot of offer. put your hand in the inside of the can get enough variation in a set musicians are often enthusiastic in
drum. It doesn’t choke it and you of tunes obeying the traditional embracing change. The dialogue
“People who bought my pass right through the security rhythms then it keeps me happy between the two camps is often
DaRedDrum bodhrans didn’t want checks.” and quiet. I just do my job in a heated, as each defends their
to break their drums in and talking
to them is where the genesis of
DaBlondeDrum came from,” he
explained, referring to the latest
‘... Seamus O’Kane started making drums when
model of drum he makes which is
available in addition to the classic
Alfonso bodhran. “They kept
he was just a little boy after watching his cousins
saying that the drums they bought
sounded different to the ones
they heard on stage and I had to
going off have fun playing music around Ireland.’
say to these people, listen, you’re
hearing drums that people have
owned for three or four years and If an Alfonso drum brings to mind session and leave it at that. I will viewpoint. In the case of the
they have broken them in. You a shaggy twist horned Chamois, a be noticed by people interested bodhran, making sure that you
have to break your drum in if you Seamus O’Kane is Kashmir sleek in rhythm; the melody players can have a good drum is only the first
want them to sound like that.” to look at, as well as butter soft delight the others.” step towards becoming a good
to listen to. The first time I heard player; even the best drum is only
His hands expressed his Seamus O’Kane playing bodhran Contrary to popular belief, the as good as the person banging it.
exasperation, his voice his was at the Ennis Festival in Clare. bodhran, as most people know
amusement. “But I kept hearing A tall white haired man, soft it, is relatively new to the Celtic Seamus O’Kane has a final piece
why can’t I have a drum that spoken and courteous, he started music scene and whether it of advice for would be bodhran
sounds like just like that when I making drums when he was just actually does delight listeners is players, new to session playing.
buy it,” he went on. “So at some a little boy after watching his a common bone of contention in “In Ireland,” he said, “thin skins
point in the late nineties I started cousins going off have fun playing many sessions. The suspicion that can rise and fall with the
to pre-break my drums and music around Ireland. with which many melody players music are the only drums that
DaBlondeDrum came from my greet an untried bodhran player are acceptable in sessions. That
realizing that people’s tastes were “My cousins were a lot older in a session is mirrored in the vast harsh heavy monotone is not
changing. They wanted a thinner than me and very musical,” he numbers of bodhran related jokes. acceptable at all, and the playing
drum, not thinner sounding, but remembered. “I watched them While they might differ on what and volume of our musical type of
with a softer and more pliable and their bands going off to play bodhrans add to the music, both drum must be used much more
skin. Now, I had some calfskin at weekends at all the famous drum makers agree on why this sensitively and only allowed to fill
drumheads, from old drum sets dancehalls in the country. I was mistrust is sometimes justified. the sound ranges that the other
that were about 60 years old. always drumming, and thought instrument cannot. I have heard
The difference between goatskin and saw music in drumming “Bodhrans have a bad rap playing that was very rough and
and calfskin is the difference terms rather than melody. I still because it is easier to play the harsh, like it used to be here 40
you would find between refined do. I started making bodhrans drum than other instrument … years ago when it got such a bad
Egyptian cotton and crude cotton. because I had to have one and initially,” explained Albert, talking name; our melody musicians just
Calfskin is more consistent, could not find a maker; that was about the carnage an untrained stop playing when this style of
sensitive and easier to play. They 1969. By the early 70’s, I had and over-enthusiastic bodhran bodhran player joins in.”
are never going to sound just like made about five, each getting player can inflict on a session.
a goat skin drum but you can get better than the last in some small “Anyone can play the drum but not “However,” he smiled, “In Ireland
them pretty close.” way. It was very hit and miss, just anybody can play it well.” The and the rest of the world, our good
I couldn’t tell what was right or eyebrows went up, the smile was players realise that it can do much
A softer, gentler sound is not wrong.” rueful. “It’s not rocket science,” more in a session.” q

The Living Tradition - Page 
Issue80.indd 63 14/7/08 14:56:16
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