If you are a drummer or musician or just love percussion and you are ever in Bali (or on line) you owe it to yourself to check out Bali Treasures. I was recently in Ubud Bali where I had the pleasure to meet the owner of the Bali Treasures retail store Ed A. Balma. Ed also is owner of what is probably the worlds largest djembe manufacturing company. We went there afterwards and were totally blown away by the vast number of drums being produced!
It boggles the mind to see the raw wood, the size of the factory, the machines, the number of people and of course the number of drums. There are so many different types, colours ,sizes and shapes available and being made. I really had no idea how popular the djembe was until I went to this factory.
One of my favourite parts of the factory tour was seeing the tuners tuning djembes and hitting them. They all know how to hit a drum. They are drummers and they love what they are doing. They pull using the arm bar and not the leg machine interestingly enough. I asked a number of people about it and they just prefer to use the arm bar vs the leg machine which uses your weight vs upper body muscle.
It is amazing how many people are playing djembes (and buying them too obviously!). When I first started drumming in the early 70’s no one had even heard of a djembe. It was Ricky Riccardo and congas. As a djembe player of over 20 years I am happy to say a djembe is “bigger then a breadbox”, every household should have one! And there is a djembe for every size, shape or reason. You name it and they are being made here.
The store is in Ubud and is filled with every kind of percussion instrument you could imagine or ever want and I was in heaven. You could spend days in there playing all the different percussion instruments and experimenting with their different sounds, textures and styles. As a collector of percussion instruments for over 30 years I really appreciated this incredible variety of percussion effects and toys! A percussionists and djembe players dream come true. There is Middle Eastern instruments as well as a full range of West African drums, too. Every size shape colour and type of djembe is right there for you to try! There are digeridoos, rainsticks, kalimbas, gongs, chimes, you name it!
I gave an informal drum class with his workers. Everyone had knowledge of the west african instruments and could play. What a pleasure to teach them! We played Kassa, Diansa, Soli Slow, Wolosodon and othr Guinee and Mali djembe and dunun music, too. You can see the videos on youtube or here on my blog. There was no ego only the joy of playing and learning in all of the drum classes I taught in Ubud Bali. People there are skilled and good learners who appreciate other lovers of the art of drumming.
We played the Toca bound djembes and dununs both in wood and the new PVC with fibre heads. Both wood and fibre drums sounded great. The wood drums in Bali keep getting better and better. Every time I return to Bali I am surprised at how good they sound. From what I understand Ed is the sole provider of djembes to Toca.The drums Ed is producing are all from sustainable, replenishable wood supplies, not bootleg or smuggled in wood. The wood supplies are documented and checked regularly by the government. Unfortunately from what I am told, all of the other shops in Bali are using wood that is not sustainable. Despite my love of exotic wood djembes we do need to protect the environment so this is an important point to remember, and Ed is really playing his part in this story.
What I love abut the PVC drums is they are so light, loud and you do not have to worry about the elements such as water, moisture, etc. If you live in a humid area, like to play on the beach or get water or rain on your drum then this may be the drum for you. The sound has gotten quite good n dhas come along way over the years as well. And for the purest, as far as I am concerned the wood shells Ed is producing and drums I have mentioned are ready to give the African shells a run for their money. I left the shop with anew wooden drum which I played on the beach at a jam (Bali beach jam video here on my blog) and I am waiting on rainy Koh Samui, Thailand as I write this for my PVC drum to arrive. I am going to take care of it like I would any drum, but I will not fear the rain, no I will not. I have a DJ gig on the 14th at a large party here and I know it will be just perfect for that.
Ed and his staff are constantly developing new and unusual percussion instruments and new ideas based on old concepts as well, I played a terrific talking drum as well as some new sheker inventions that really rocked (shook?) my world! Please check out their website if you have a chance. I am looking forward to putting some of theses instruments on my next CD I am dreaming up as I write this! By the way, the carvings on these drums on the outside are really interesting done very skillfully as well.
One interesting point is that the workers there really love drums and drumming too. If you are ever in Bali and you love drumming please stop in and say hi. The friendly workers will be happy to stop and have a drum session with you and you may just be surprised how good it all sounds! WWW.DrumFactory.com