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Featured Article:
2004 02 01:
Modern Drummer Magazine:

Modern Drummer Magazine was kind enough to play and review three of our Handmade Rhythm Ashiko drums. Here is what they have to say:

as reprinted from the Feburary 2004 issue.

exemplary construction quality unique appearance and details outstanding acoustic performance

by Norman Arnold

Some companies focus their energies on making lots of gear thatís good. Handmade Rhythm, a small company located in the high desert area of central Oregon, focuses on making only a few items that are really, really good. Their African-style ashiko drums are truly high-class instruments.

Solid Stave Cherry Ashiko

The entry-level solid stave cherry ashiko is great to look at and even better to play. Its dimensions are 12x23, with a very smooth and tapered look. Itís a heavy drum, as are all the HandMade Rhythm instruments. The stave construction accounts for the solid construction and feel. The drum is made from twelve solid pieces of wood glued together to form the shell. Its goatskin head is held in place by a solid steel ring wrapped in leather. High-strength braided nylon rope secures the head in place with a traditional Mali weave.
The drum features a very comfortable edge thatís easy on the playerís hands. And speaking of easy, it doesnít take much to get these drums to speak with a deep and sonorous tone. The low end is very rich, and the goatskin head allows for a great slap. I played the drum in the studio and in the house on hardwood floors, and the sound was huge. Besides the cherry we tested, wood choices for this model include maple, mahogany, walnut, lacewood, and other high quality woods. No bones about it: This is a great entry-level drum.

Bookmatched Stave Zebra Ashiko

The second drum we reviewed was a bookmatched stave zebra ashiko with ebony inlays and a walnut bottom cap. (FunnyÖthat sounds just like what the lady in front of me at Starbucks ordered this morning.) The bookmatched staves are constructed by gluing twelve solid pieces of maple together to form the shell, then adding an outer layer of ďshow wood.Ē The choice of zebrawood gives this drum a unique, stylized look. The long, vertical lines of the wood all come together with the walnut bottom cap.
As with the cherry ashiko, this drum also had a very pure and clear ringing tone. Its tapered construction really projects the sound out of the bottom of the drum, filling the room. The goatskin head worked very well for all playing techniques. This drum would be a great addition to any studio percussionistís arsenal. It has a commanding sound whether close-miked or room-miked. The zebra ashiko is genuinely top-of-the-line in sound and construction. And the visual details of its ebony inlay and bottom cap are very special touches.

Pau Ferro Ashiko

And just when you thought things couldnít get any better, HandMade Rhythm offers the truly wonderful pau ferro ashiko. Itís really hard not to gush about what is, quite simply, one of the best made drums Iíve ever seen. The highlight of the detailing on this drum is the double ring of paua (abalone) shell inlaid around the base of the drum, acting as a separator between the purpleheart bottom cap and the rest of the drum. Itís a stunning two-tone look.
As you might expect by now, this drum also has a vibrant and deep tone, making it a pleasure to play. Itís also a very mature sounding drum - almost weathered. It doesnít sound as if it needs to cure or be broken in. The calfskin head is held in another solid steel ring wrapped in leather. The nylon rope is set well down in the rim, so it doesnít interfere at all with the playing surface. All the requisite sounds - low tones, slaps, and open tones - are readily available and easy to achieve on this drum.

As Good As It Gets

All of the Handmade Rhythm drums can be custom-ordered to include any or all of the above-mentioned details. From the entry-level cherry to the top-of-the-line pau ferro drum, these ashikos are in a league of their own. Of course, drums with options like these are also in a price range of their own. But if you want a Rolls Royce, youíve got to pay Rolls Royce prices. The HandMade Rhythm drums are worth every penny.