The Drum Makers

We happened upon a soccer game of about twenty men. Next door, we located George at his work place in an uncompleted building. The soccer game was being played with great intensity, and as we also came to later find out, matched the intensity of the drum making atmosphere – the players were also the drum makers. Here, men and women were hollowing out logs with homemade giant chisels, forming raw hardwood into drums, carving Adinkra symbols on wood, and painting/polishing in various stages of the drum making process. We made our way through wood chips, logs, half finished and completed drums mostly djembe drums of all varying shapes, designs, colors and sizes.

When we sat down to speak with George, we found a man who, out of sheer determination, is improving his life by creating possibilities for other young men and women.  His smile belies the fierce intensity in his eyes; giving one the sense that he had once had a conversation with poverty and made a pact that one of them was going to lose and it was not going to be George.

Born in the Northern region of Ghana, to a retired army officer of a family of 10 children, George dropped out of school at the age of 6 due to economic reasons. He later returned at the age of 13, but a pattern of going in and out of school due to economic hardship ensued. When he finally completed secondary education, his certificate never arrived in the mail, and his school could not locate it. Unable to further his education without a certificate, he took an apprenticeship with a construction company, where he learned to use hand tools and skills that would later serve as the foundation of his drum making.

George’s time as a construction worker was brief, and he eventually worked his way to the capital city of Accra with only 15 cedis (ten dollars) in his pocket.  Here, George developed merchant skills by selling wares including batik and tie and dye clothing. George returned to the Northern part of Ghana, to put his acquired skills to work in the artisan markets, initially making Djembe drums and then diversifying into other musical instruments. He now works across the country, but is headquartered in Accra, Ghana.  He trains and employs sixty five full time employees, mainly school dropouts.

George aspires to expand his enterprise by partnering with House of Talents to access previously unavailable markets.  He hopes to assist his artisans in opening their own shops and becoming self-sufficient suppliers. House of Talents looks forward to helping George, and his artisans, win their battle with poverty.

Djembe Drums: A brief History
The Djembe is a skin-covered hand drum that is a traditional instrument of the people of West Africa.  Typically made from goat skin stretched taut around a hand carved wooden drum, the Djembe is capable of producing a wide array of sounds.  From the high percussive slaps along the rim, to deep thumping blows in the center, the Djembe, more than similar bongos or congas, fills a spectrum of rhythmic noises not typically found in a single drum.  It can be used as an accent to any acoustic ensemble, or be the driving force and backbone of any rhythm-based music.

Each drum is carved out of a single piece of hardwood, such as the Odum. The restorative wood is from trees purchased from mills, and also from private plantations that strictly follow The Lacey Act of 1900 (amended May 22, 2008 to protect a broader range of plants and plant products: Section 8204, Prevention of Illegal logging Practices). The drums we purchase are not made out of soft wood which is readily available on the tourist market (Djembe drums carved out of softwood have been known to compromise on the explosive sound quality of the djembe).