Most hand drums are of two kinds, the single surfaced or ‘headed’ ones and the double headed ones. Of the two surfaces of a double headed drum, one is normally the Base surface, on which the baser accents are played and the other one is the Treble surface on which, mostly finger rolling or slapping is used in order to construct a full beat pattern.
Glen Velez, the Frame Drum maestro’s contribution to Frame Drumming has brought these traditional instruments to the forefront and into popular music today. He invented a drum set constituting only Frame Drums and was the first musician to master the brush and hand combo technique. Almost every country has it’s own set of Frame Drums, we’ve heard about the Indian ones, few of the other lesser known yet extremely time-honored and classy instruments are the Spanish Adufe (a double headed drum), the Brazilian Pandeiro, the Italian Tamburello and the Ghaval from Azerbaijan. Frame Drums with thin skins are finger sensitive and a variety of finger drumming techniques can be used on them but the ones with a thicker membrane need sticking. Fingernails, fingertips and sometimes knuckles can also be effectively used to make very high-pitched tones on few sections of the drum such as the drum shell or near the edges.
The Middle Eastern Doumbeks or Tonbaks/Tombaks are another separate category of goblet shaped drums made of Ceramic or metal, held between the legs or underneath an arm and played with both palms in a ‘circular fashion’, in this technique the base of the palm and the fingers are mostly used in a cyclic motion to play rhythms on the drum surface. These methods of course have slight variations and differ from drum to drum.
‘Go’ and ‘Pa’, there are more, which only advanced players can produce from their drums. Few of the major drums of African origin are the Djembes, Kpanlogos, Bougarabous, Ashikos, Udu drums (similar to Ghatams), Talking drums, Bata drums, Djun Djuns and the stool drums. All of these are meant to be played with the hands (except for the Djun Djuns which can be also played by mallets) and are great for playing in Drum Circles, as they are loud, crisp and have an amazing reverberating effect. The African drumming methods stress more on striking the drumhead with the palm and the use of the fingers is limited, it also stresses heavily on power. The Talking Drum on the other hand is a unique contraption, as the ropes running down its body are to be squeezed by the player, holding the drum underneath his arms in order to change the pitch while playing. The depth to which music is embedded in Africa is revealed by a simple proverb of theirs, which says, ‘A village without music is a dead village’.
Apparently the above ‘stomping’ and ‘slapping’ may not have anything to do with what I started off on i.e. the kinship between hand percussion and ones musical legacy but don’t you think it does take us back to one fact, and that is human beings still rely profoundly on their bodies to make music. Even after so many decades of technology invading the music scenario, by whose virtue almost all musical instruments today have wires going in and out of them and can be made to sound so unrealistic, man still recognizes this essential, natural chemistry between his own body and the music that naturally flows out of it; he still feels the need to be one with the surface he contacts in order to tap this music.