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About UDU Drums - a brief history
Frank Giorgini's UDU DRUM is a clay pot drum modeled after the Nigerian side hole pot drum. It is made entirely of clay, in the form of a narrow necked, vase-like vessel, with a circular hole in the side in addition to the opening at the top. Playing technique for the traditional drum varies considerably from one region to another and one player to another, but basic technique incorporates drumming on the side hole while selectively opening and closing the top hole to modulate the air chamber resonance with the other hand. Thus, the drum is part idiophone and part aerophone, and, no part membranophone. It has no skin or membrane head. The sound is one of deep air resonance articulated by quick, bright percussion, at times light and bubbly and at times profound. Bent tones resulting from the players modulation of the apertures can be reminiscent of tablas or talking drums. (Experimental Musical Instruments Vol 5 Feb 1990)
Frank Giorgini's handmade UDU DRUMS are considered the best of their type in the world and the choice of the world's leading percussionists.
In the following statement Frank Giorgini describes his first encounter with the Nigerian side hole pot drum and his own developments to the instrument to create the modern UDU DRUM:
"In the summer of 1974, I had the opportunity to live and work with a group of African artists at the Haystacks Mt. School of Artand Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine. As a result of this unique cultural exchange, I learned the little known art of making the all clay side hole pot drum. The origins of this instrument can be traced to central and southern Nigeria. It is the invention of some ancient village potter who struck a hole in the side of a traditional clay water vessel and discovered the resonatingsound that could be produced. The man who first introduced me to the sidehole pot drum is Abbas M. Ahuwan, a Kaji potter, artist, and professor at Amadu Bello University Zaria, Nigeria. From the teachings of Abbas at Haystacks, I learned the traditional Nigerian pottery techniques that are employed to create the clay drum.
The word Udu means both pottery and peace in the Ibo language of Nigeria. I call my drums UDU DRUMS, but the side hole pot drum has many different names in Nigeria, depending on tribal areas and ceremonies in which it is used. "Abang mbre" or "pot for playing" is the name that was generally ascribed to it. Some believe the deep haunting sound particular to the drum is the "voice of the ancestors" when used in religious ceremonies.
I form each handmade UDU DRUM true to the traditional techniques that were handed down to me from Abbas M. Ahuwan. The drums are not thrown on a potters wheel. They are created by pounding natural clays with flatrocks, coiling up the form inch by inch, paddling and shaping the drum with handmade wooden paddles, and burnishing the surface to a beautiful lusterusing a smooth stone. The deep, rich dark color is a result of the flames and smoke of the firing process. The process of forming, drying, and firing one drum may take up to one month. Over the years I have developed many design innovations, clay body formulas, and firing techniques that have improved the sound quality, durability, and versatility of this instrument. I make the drums in a set of four, corresponding to the traditional African family concept of drums. They range in size from 30cm (12") to 50cm (18") in height, the smallest having the highest pitch and the largest the deepest pitch.
Frank Giorgini's UDU DRUMS are in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.