Before I begin, I do have to say that while I may be guilty of letting a phone ring too long when I think there is a chance that the person is too far away to catch it quickly, I have never let a phone ring for over an hour (so far.) It is a bit excessive. Why don’t I answer it? Because it is behind a locked door. It will be a long night. Thank goodness I have earplugs!
But that is not the purpose of this blog post. Today I had the pleasure of shopping for musical instruments and dance costumes for Kiwuliriza Primary School on behalf of Glenmore Elementary, using the funds raised by the annual Month of Love fundraiser. Students at GME give up one WANT to provide for a NEED. Last year the money raised was used to build a chicken coop. This year, the school has requested musical instruments and dance costumes to be able to develop their music program. At the moment, they have a music teacher but there are few (if any) instruments. Since part of ISEE’s mandate is to support educational needs, using this money for the development of the arts program at this primary school seems like a great fit. Plus the teacher at Glenmore who organizes the campaign is Rhonda Draper, music teacher extraordinaire, so the fit is even more appropriate.
As we were heading to the drum workshop, we passed a street seller who had gourds to make into shakers. These gourds are dried out and lacquered, filled with coffee beans, then the neck is stuffed with maize husks. I ordered four pairs of shakers from him and he was happy to sit and make them for me. I let him select the gourds as I figured he knew best.
He was happy that I had spotted him as he probably sold more at once than he does in a day. No doubt he made more per set than any Ugandan would pay. As it was, he knocked a third off the price he originally quoted. I don’t bargain much with the street sellers and artisans. I know I pay more but for the work they do, it is well worth it.
Then we continued on to the drum maker. We explained that we wanted a full set of drums for a primary school and he selected four drums for the set. I also said we needed 30 grass skirts, ankle shakers and a xylophone if he had one. He had it all, all made by him.
He selected the four drums that would sound properly together and set about the task of tightening a set of strings on the skin to make it as tight as possible. This affects the pitch of the drum.
The fur on the top also needs to be scraped off. It took a good hour to get the main drum ready for purchase. The tall drum has monitor lizard skin on top so there is no changing the tightness of the skin.
After finishing the drums (his wife helped with the scraping of the skin), he set about finishing the xylophone. He cut rubber from an inner tube to lay the bars on top so that they vibrate when they are hit.
Then he added nails in between the bars and to the bottom of the bars to keep them apart and steady on the frame.
Then he cut pieces of wood to cover the bottom and add handles to the side. I had visions of him sawing into his thumb or leg but of course, he is well versed in the art of sawing with the plank pushed against one leg while the other foot holds the plank down.
This all took another good 45 minutes but it was amazing to watch the creation of these fantastic instruments. And the sound is beautiful. Warm and full.
Uncle Mugooma, as he is called by the others who came in and out of his store, has been making drums and xylophones for about 15 years. He grew up in a household of drum makers and while his immediate family did not make drums, he lived in a communal home with others from his village who did.
I am so happy that I was able to be part of this drum making, even if I was just an awed observer. Such an amazing craft.
Thank you Glenmore! I enjoyed my time learning how drums and xylophones are made and I cannot wait to deliver these drums to Kiwuliriza tomorrow! Webale Nnyo!
PS – I took lots of video clips so a compiled video of the musical instrument making should be up sometime in August!
PS – the phone is still ringing, after 2.5 hours.