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  Paul Keane

Paul Keane

Drum making

Since 1997 Paul Keane has been behind some of Australia's best Djembes. He was the first drum maker in Australia to source and supply Billy Hydes with high quality Djembes from Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

Below he lists some of the lessons he's learned over the past ten years and more.

The drum 'shell' (wooden body of the drum)

"The "shell" is the first and most crucial part of putting together a really good drum. In the early days they were harder to get and shapes, styles and quality of the wood varied quite a bit. But over time you get to know who's bringing in the best shells and in the past few years we've been very fortunate and been able to pick out and buy some of the highest quality shells that are coming into Australia."


The skin
"I've stretched some amazing things over the top of drums! Elk, Deer, Cow, even Kangaroo skin - but traditionally, Djembes have a goat skin head. Even with goat skin you have the choice of treated skins (that have the hair removed chemically) or traditional (hairy) skins that must be shaved by hand. And of course because they are a natural substance they have different weights and thickness.

Again it's taken time to find out who has the best skins - but the one's I use at the moment have great evenness of tone and just the right balance between stretch and strength.

I've always loved how 'individual' drums can be - eg an Irish instrument like the Bodhran (which I've played for years and years) can sound really different depending on the skin. Djembes are the same and I try and match up each shell with a skin that will suit it and hopefully play well for the new owner."



"Preparation of the bearing edge (top rim of the drum) is worth the time and trouble. It makes the drum sound a lot more even, and makes playing a lot more comfortable."

- Each African Percussion shell is tailored to its first skin. The bearing edge is evened to promote clarity of sound and eliminate ringing or buzzing and the shoulders are rounded, making them easier for the beginner and more comfortable for the professional.

African Percussion drums are also treated with a "slip-sealed bearing surface" - a frictionless finish to the bearing edge which further increases the life of the skin and helps prevent weak spots developing as the drum skin moves in heat / cold or during tuning.


Tuning rope and knots

"The rope and knots make a bigger difference than you would expect. They're a bit like the engine room of the drum. If you take short cuts here and don't put enough knots on the rim or use poor quality rope that stretches or frays - then you'll have to tune it more than is necessary and even then, you're drum's never going to sound as good as it could"



"I build my drums to last. Of course skins and tuning ropes will wear out and need to be replaced but I'm always glad to see them come back - I know I don't have to start from scratch - all the hard work has already been done!"

click here for more info on Djembe care and maintenance >




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All African Percussion drums and repairs come with an African Percussion guarantee of satisfaction and a twelve month warranty against faults in the materials or workmanship.