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EKWE DRUMS

Ekwe - Two-pitch Ibo log drum. Available in two types of hardwood (yellow or red). Played with either a plain straight wood stick or a rubber-tipped short beater similar to a large balafon or Alo (long gong-bell) mallet. These log drums are found in the eastern part of Nigeria. Larger Ekwes are usually played with two sticks, while smaller ones are usually played with only one stick.

The Ube wood that is used for carving Yellow Ekwe log drums is also called "white wood," but not because the yellow outer part of the drum is the wood's natural color... instead, the drum's shell is painted with a yellow powder (that prior to being applied to the drum shell is diluted in water).

The Red Ekwe is carved from a naturally-red wood called "Orji" in the Ibo language. In English, it is called Padauk (which, despite its unusual spelling, is pronounced "puh DOOK") or Vermillion. This wood is more expensive than the "white" wood used in the Yellow Ekwe both because of its beautiful intense (and very natural) red color and its ability to resist insect (termite/worm) damage. Although a wide variety of wood types proliferate in the bush lands (jungles) of Nigeria, Orji/Padauk/Vermillion is not especially abundant.

Both colors/types of log drums have a fairly mellow timbre, as the key to log drum playing has more to do with specific articulation and phrasing of characteristic patterns and polyrhthmic interplay between the drums (as each log drum is usually played by a separate drummer), so a long resonance time (like that of precisely-tuned slit drums) would tend to 'muddy' the rhythms. In an ensemble situation, these drums work well with Katá/TiBwa/Guagua bamboo log drums since their sound is similarly punchy but different. Normally one can resolve the individual Ekwe parts in complex performances by hearing the tone of differently-sized log drums (mixing red and white is not an issue as their sizes are more critical to their sounds), and while an arrangement mixing both bamboo and wood log drums is non-traditional within Nigeria's Ibo communities, some percussionists have done so with very good results.

Because our stock of log drums can vary from season to season (depending on growing conditions and what we've already sold from existing stock), if you are adamant about needing particular sizes in one particular color or the other, it's best to contact us to find out what we have and/or what's on order. Like the Katá, this instrument acquires a substantial part of its characteristic sound from being cured (dried slowly), and like the process used to produce kiln-dried wood for the construction industry, the Nigerian carvers' curing of log-drum wood is a process that is best not rushed (because rapidly-dried wood tends to crack).

Log drums can be stored and transported like other drums; it is neither necessary to give them special treatment (like oil or wax applications) nor is it recommended to leave them outdoors for extended periods of inclement weather. They can be rather bulky and seemingly rough in appearance, however like many directly-imported African instruments, Motherland Music's Ekwes (and Krins) are the real thing, hand-crafted in classic proportions by local carvers as they have done so for untold generations. If you need your drums blessed by a priest for a performance, gift to a dignitary, or special occasion, we can probably arrange for you to meet with a Nigerian priest here in our store (or it can be blessed by the priest prior to shipment to you). If you are storing log drums for a long time (several months), the primary consideration is humidity, so it's best to store them where ambient humidity generally remains below 40%. We call that California desert-land around here.

While we stock log drums in two basic types (Ekwe and Krin) and various sizes are given in inches, these sizes are approximate as carvers generally use a more wholistic approach to sizing a drum, whether it's a djembe or a log drum, and it's not especially likely to be done in exact-inch-size increments. Another way to look at (and listen to, and buy) log drums is the classic "family of three" size tradition (small or baby/solo drum, medium or daddy/2nd accompaniment drum, and large or mommy/1st accompaniment drum) for a pleasing tonal variation when buying a set, as is usually done with batá and conga drums (which admittedly are from a different culture, that of the Yoruba people). It is also certainly acceptable to players in the west to combine ekwes with krins in ensemble playing, as their sounds are similar. However, like most of our drums, each hand-carved log drum is its own work of art and (just like people) no two are exactly alike. Enjoy combining or separating the unique sounds of various styles/woods/sizes/types of log drums to get the sounds you want. Feel free to buy all we have for sale; we'll eventually get more!

 

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Last modified: Sunday, March 22, 2009

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