I’ve been a drummer for more than 50 years. That doesn’t make me a good drummer. As a matter of fact, my son grew up banging around on my drums and began to play better than I when he was around 14. While I was in the Air Force, I always played in a couple of bands, gigging on weekends for extra money. The drummer is always the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. Moving drum kits around involves a lot of set-up and tear-down time. I loved to play…and still love to play but I’m a bit past my prime.
Later in life, the drum kit went away but not my love of percussion. I’m the guy that always drums his fingers on the top of the bar or table without realizing it while music is playing. The rhythm is inside me and must escape! You’d think with this in-dwelling rhythm, I’d be a great dancer. Nope! I’m still an old white dude! Remember the dancing lesson in the movie “Hitch”? Guess which one I am! Now Diane…that woman can move like her hips are on greased bearings…but that’s another topic!
In the car, I’m always playing drums to whatever music is playing with my feet and hands moving in intricate rhythms while also shifting gears and changing lanes. I do this without even realizing it, as if NOT adding my car-type drumming would somehow leave a huge hole in the music.
Some years ago, I picked up a couple of nice, really nice hand drums of the djembe class. I kept them handy and could sit and play for a long time, releasing pent up beats and rhythms that had been building for days or weeks. Carlos Santana became a frequent cohort!
When it was time to make decisions about what things were to be sold and what things would make the trip to Ecuador, the drums went into the “take” pile. When it got down to the wire, only one of the drums was left in the ‘take” pile and finally, the realization hit me that neither of my beloved instruments could make the trip. There was simply no room and no remaining weight! The drums were sold.
A month or so ago, as the Pocket Babe and I were visiting one of our favorite haunts in Canoa, I received a wonderful gift. We had ordered some food and a couple of drinks. Diane excused herself and said she’d be right back. In 15 minutes, she returned carrying one of the most beautiful, hand crafted/indigenous drums I had ever seen. It was carved from the trunk of a tree; slightly curved with an intricate rope weave holding a natural hide head, tight to the rim. She had a huge smile on her face as she handed it to me. “I saw this sitting behind one of the vendors when we drove in,” she said. I took it from her, placed it on the floor between my knees and began to explore the sounds. It was beautiful! I loved it and in fact, in just a few moments, determined it to be my all-time favorite drum. I loved the way it sounded and permitted many variations in tone. Many of these indigenous drums are quite heavy. Not this one!! And I loved that Diane had bought it for me and knew my love of these primitive instruments. I want to say, once again, that I am only a very mediocre drummer, at best, but that simply doesn’t matter when the rhythm is escaping through my hands. It feeds my soul.
This drum, locally called a tumba, found a permanent resting spot on a hand carved, wooden donkey saddle in our living room where it lived and rested between musical interludes.
Two weeks ago, I noticed that the natural-hide head had split quite severely along the rim, making the drum unplayable. Drum heads break and split from time to time. But this was a piece of art work hand made by a native artisan/musician and a gift from Diane. I couldn’t take it down to the local music store, buy a new synthetic head and install it in ten minutes like I’d done many times before on factory made drums.
For more than a week, with my broken tumba in the car, I would stop and ask if anyone knew where I might have my tumba repaired. From time to time, I’d hear of some mystery person named Enrique or Carlos or some other name who lived “over there” but “over there” was never found. We even took the drum to the local museum in hopes that they might direct us to someone to assist. In a fluke encounter, we stopped by one of the local mechanic shops I had previously frequented. The owner of the shop said he knew of someone. He left his shop, jumped into the car with Diane and I and directed us to one of the homes in a nearby neighborhood. The man we sought was not there but I returned at the appointed time, met the man and left my favorite drum with a stranger. He thought it would take a week or so as the necessary hide needed to come from the high country…the skin of a particular deer. Arrangements were made to leave the drum at a local hostel where the owner was an acquaintance.
This morning, I received an email. My tumba had arrived at the hostel and my acquaintance was keeping it safe for me. She said it looked great!!
Diane and I are headed out for some errands. Today’s list includes stopping by the telephone store to recharge the minutes on my phone (which expired in mid-sentence this morning), collecting my tumba, visiting the nearly completed Canoa Beach Hotel (being built by a friend) to see the newly filled and amazing jungle river pool and some other stuff. Dinner tonight with friends and our landlord in a combination pleasure/business thing. Although I basically just want to sit on my butt…opportunities to get off my butt and do something are being dragged in front of me daily. Speaking of butts, I’d better put some clothes on. My butt is beginning to stick to this plastic seat cover. And the Great Ecuadorian Retirement Adventure Continues!!!