How Irie Tones Djembes are Made

In this section you will find an extensive photo gallery with step-by-step descriptions of how your authentic Irie Tones djembe is made. We find the entire creative process facinating, from how the wood is selected to how the skin is shaved. Making a drum by hand is an extremely time consuming and physically arduous task, often undertaken while working on extremely hot and humid environment. We hope this page helps you gain a better undersanding and appreciation of your new hand-made African product!

Step 1
The Materials
X People - X Minutes
Raw materials come from the market, the bush, and overseas, and are all selected for quality and suitabilty for drum making.
Harvest drum wood...
Dry drum wood...
...dry drum wood...

Step 2
The Shell
X People - X Minutes

The shell (body of the drum) is carved out of a single, solid log. Using various carving tools the drummakers follow a time-honored, traditional process of creating the body. The rough outline of the shell is first created using machetes and hatchets, followed by a the more detailed work of uniformly shaping the body, making it smooth and flowing.

These pictures give you a sense of the length of time and huge physical effort required to create just one djembe shell by hand! Filling an order for Irie Tones is always a group effort requiring teamwork and cooperation from workers of all ages. Working conditions are not always pleasant; the weather is 90 to 100 degrees F, with close to 100% relative humidity, and major rainstorms often slow the work.

Step 3
The Rings
X People - X Minutes
The welder fastens 3 metal rings around each djembe, using an old but functional welding device.

Step 4
The Artwork
X People - X Minutes
The wood carvers handcarve various designs into the base and belly of the drum. Each one is unique and demonstrates the personality of the individual artist. This step is very time consuming and detailed - an effort you'll value for the beauty and elegance added to your drum.

Step 5
The Stains and Oils
X People - X Minutes
Black, brown, or clear stains are applied to the shell, enhancing its beauty and artwork.
Brown/clear stains and oils...

Step 6
The Bearing Edge
X People - X Minutes
Before the rope and head are installed the drummakers prepare the surface against which the leather head tightens (bearing edge). The rim is made precisely level, then rounded to protect the skin and make playing more comfortable for you. Finally, the rim is sanded down to remove any sharp points or splinters that may damage the skin.

Step 7
The Rope
X People - X Minutes
First, loops are wrapped around the crown and base rings. Our drummakers use continuous loops (as opposed to spaced loops like most other rope-tension djembes), for even distribution of rope tension. Second, the is loosely woven through the loops, creating the verticals.

Step 8
The Skin
X People - X Minutes
After inspecting the skin for holes and tears, soaking it in water, and removing any loose facia, the skin is ready to be installed. The skin is wrapped between the head ring and crown rings, and light tension is applied by pulling the vertials. The drummaker pays special attention to the equal distribution of tension, and the horizontal relative position of the rings around the drum. The skin is then allowed to dry completely before full tension is applied.
Skin being shaved 1...
Skin being shaved 2...

Step 9
The Tension
X People - X Minutes
After the skin has been installed, dried, and shaved, it is ready for full tension to be applied...
Pulling verticals 1...
Pulling verticals 2...
Pulling verticals 3...

Step 10
From Africa to You!
X People - X Minutes
After the drum has been made, it is well packaged for export to the United States or elsewhere. In a matter of days it can be in your hands, ready for play at the drum circle, campfire, or recording studio!
Unpackage 1...
Unpackage 2...
Unpackage 3...