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BLAMINACK - HOW TO BUILD A KETE HAND DRUM - PART 1

Greetings. This is a picture tutorial on how I build a Kete drum. Kete Drums are made and played by Rastafarians all over the world and they make up part of the Nyabinghi Music that developed in part into Reggae. These drums descend directly from African percussion instruments.

While I am not a Rasta, I have a huge amount of respect for the music and the culture of Rastafarians. My love for the music and a love for working with my hands led me to learn to build these drums. In this tutorial I make no claims to be an expert on Drum Building. This is just how I do it, but it is my desire to show respect to the originators of these great drums, by doing my best to build a quality instrument that honors their music and talents. I want to share what I have learned with you. I want you to be able to build a drum that you will cherish. I want you to build a drum to give to some one else. Share the vibes! Spread the power of music. Spread Jah Vibes!

Blessings and respect!

As a disclaimer, I want you all to keep safety in the forefront of your minds. There are many things in this tutorial that if done in a haphazard manner sever injury could result. Be safe. If you are not experienced in something get help from some one who knows what to do. That being said… if I can do this, you can too. This is not genius work. Some of it takes practice, but you can build a drum that you will be overjoyed to show to others and play. Now on to the tutorial…

Materials and Tools needed: (look on Ebay for Wood and tools!)

Wood, obviously. It takes about 2 planks of 6”x ¾ x 8’ to build a Kete drum… more or less.

Drumhead. Traditionally goatskins are used, but I have seen Kete drums made with calfskin. Typically, I purchase the skins on E-bay; however, there are other sources on the internet. I prefer African goatskins with hair on them. They haven’t been treated with any chemicals and, supposedly, due to the climate, they have a thinner hide. I hope that using African hides will also lend support to the local African economies, at the same time using a material that is a by-product of one of the major food sources. These hides are rawhides, not treated leather. Some people will prefer not to use natural hides at all. For traditional purposes, I have always used natural hides. I have not tried any of the synthetic drumheads, but there are some available at www.remo.com. I use the center of the back because this is where the thickness is most consistent. They tend to thin around the edges and are not consistent. If you are making small drums, you may be able to get two drumheads from one hide, but typically, I use one hide per drum. I will cover more on this in the section of the tutorial that discusses handling the goatskin.

You need an accurate table saw, and a circular saw…for milling the wood into the correct sizes and shapes.

A four-inch angle grinder, with a grinding wheel, a cut off wheel and a sanding disc.

You need a means to sand the wood. I use a pneumatic sander. This runs on compressed air. The one that I have is designed for auto bodywork. It has a random orbit.

Sand paper.

You will need to finish the wood… I use polyurethane. There are many options here.

I also use a router. This is not an absolute necessity but it makes things much faster than the alternative.

You have to glue it together. I use Titebond II wood glue. There are several options here but keep clean up in mind. You DO NOT want to use polyurethane glue such as Gorilla Glue. You have to use your hands and these will not come off skin!

You will need a means to weld the metal parts. I bought a small wire feed welder for this. I love this thing! For some reason my wife won’t let me keep it in bedroom though… I have no idea why… Many of the drums that I built I had the welding done by friends, until I bought a welder.

You are going to need ¼” round cold rolled steel to build metal parts from… I cover some of the options for this in the later parts of the tutorial… I also use two pieces of flat “plate” steel to build rings from, but you can use the same round steel mentioned above…

¼” All thread rod or a means to cut threads…

You will also need a couple of cheap single blade disposable razors for shaving the goatskin. I prefer Bic Razors that have the white handles and the orange blade cover. I cut off the protective edge to expose the blade and then at 45-degree angles, just slightly in the corners of the blade, I sand them round. Just about a 16th of an inch is all that is required. I do this to prevent gouging the hide as I remove the hair…you’ll see.

Before we go on I am going to give you a few terms that I have used through out the tutorial, so we can all understand what I am talking about…. (These are my terms, and may not be the technically correct term, because I have found no reference materials on Nyabinghi Drums.)

Ok good enough. Let’s get started!

JAH

Yesus Kristos

CONSCIOUS

Rastafari

Come Reason!

Center for Research on Christianity

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