Senior Project: African drums meet Aram Balaian

During the summer of 2009, Aram Balaian went on a trip to England and bought a drum. He had practiced playing it every day and during his junior year, the drum had started to fall apart. He thought it would be a good idea to make a new drum. “[The senior project] gave me the opportunity and an excuse to build a new drum,” Balaian said.

After 71½ hours of working at Motherland Music in Inglewood and learning the steps to create the drum, he could begin making it. The first thing Balaian had to do was decide how big of a ring size he would use for the head and base of the drum. Then he picked a body.

For two hours, he had to soak the skin that would be used to cover the head. After the two hours, he had to but the skin five inches bigger than the circumference of the head of the drum and then cut holes along the head. After cutting the holes, a rope needed to be fed through the holes and bunched up to the ring. This is all taken and put on the body. “After you’ve made the skin-ring assembly, you then complete lashing the rope,” said Balaian, “and then you tighten the rope as to both tighten the skin and lower the ring about ⅜ inch – ½ inch below the brim.”

Balaian said that this was the hardest part about constructing the drum. “When preparing to make the cradle knots, one must mark equally spaced spots on the ring where the cradle would go,” he said. If not pulled down evenly, the knots would move off their marks and when completed like this, the drum doesn’t sound right. To complete the drum, he had to tune the drum using diamonds. Once that is completed, let the drum dry for two days.

“It was an opportunity to achieve an objective that has always fascinated me,” Balaian said. Before, there was always school work getting in the way of making a drum, but the senior project helped him reach his goal and by making it himself he only had to spend half as much.

While he enjoyed creating the drum, it wouldn’t be a career path, only a hobby. “If I ever have the facilities necessary to allow me to make another drum, I would begin immediately,” he said. “Maybe if my friends request a drum, I might be able to build one for them.”