Anthony Artis HisAt first he was enthusiastic about his craft during a 1992 visit to Ghana. “I saw the people there carve drums out of solid logs,” he says. “I had never seen anything like it. I thought I have to try something like this! “
It would be a few years before the professional musician could finally do it. Thanks to a Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship from the Indianapolis Arts Council in 1999, Artis was able to study drumming in the African lamellar style with a master from Ohio. It turned out to be natural.
Today Artis combines carpentry, blacksmithing, leatherwork and even macrame into authentic Ashiko, Dùndún, Kenkeni and Bata drums, which he sells online under the name Amoahs African Drum Works. The instruments cost between $ 350 and $ 800, and the sets cost $ 1,200.
He prefers to tailor each drum to its receiver, and from the type of wood and leather to the size and style of the drum, every detail affects the sound. “Hardwoods like oak vibrate at a higher frequency because of the density of the wood,” he says. “It’s the same with the skins. Cow skin is thicker than goat skin and therefore vibrates at different speeds. “
To start a drum, Artis uses a circular saw to cut angled wooden slats, then glue their long edges together to form the body of the instrument. Once dry, he levels and grinds the wood, shapes and welds steel bars to make the drum’s retaining rings. To shape the head of the drum, Artis stretches a damp cow or goat skin over the wooden body. Once the skin is dry, he runs ropes through a series of rings on the top and bottom to tighten and tone it up.
Each drum takes about two weeks to complete, and Artis admits it is a laborious, unusual craft. “I’m pretty much the only person in Indiana who does this,” he says.