Commissioning drum-making

Talking one day about how we both wanted to own authentic Sufi drums, we decided to go out on the town and commission to our specifications frame drums and small kettledrums traditional for Mevlevi rituals. We visited a drum shop on Yüksek Kaldırım street at the top of the funicular railway, near the Mevlevi lodge in the Galata district of Beyoğlu. For his frame drum, Aka picked out a sheep skin prepared for a drum head; I picked out a goat skin. We must have also picked out smaller sheep skins for the small kettledrums. click for larger image

Right: Kudüm kettledrum set drawing of the very instruments described in the text, illustrating two views of the drums, a cushion, and drumsticks. Click for larger image.

Next stop was Bakırcılar Sokağı (Copper Craftsmen Street) just outside the Kapalı Çarşı, or Bedestan (Covered Bazaar) in the old part of Istanbul. Aka gave our specifications to a craftsman to beat a sheet of copper into the classic kudüm shape and (I forget the details of this next step) at some point described the traditional skin lacing to the person applying the heads, the fashioning of the wooden drum sticks, and the two doughnut-shaped cushions for each kettledrum to rest on. This kettledrum design resembled drums we saw in museums, rather than the timpani-like drums of, say, Istanbul Radio, which had key-operated screws for tuning.

click for large image

Nearby the Copper Craftsmen Street, we stopped by the Kalburcular Sokağı (Sieve-makers Street). The frame of the frame drum is the same shape and materials of a traditional Turkish flour sifter, but covered with a skin instead of a screen (left) (Click for larger image). Aka gave the order for the frame drum size and depth to a sieve-maker, who varnished the outside of the wood and covered the skin edge with a black velvet band. I had my frame drum completed with a cat-gut string on the outside, the cat-gut kindly supplied by a Turkish surgeon friend in Istanbul.

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last revised 21 September 2008