A couple of months ago I got in touch with ceramic artist, musician and teacher James Ibur to commission him to make an udu (or bottle) drum. I bought one of his ceramic dumbeks a few years back and wanted to add another Ibur to my collection.
We got together and he showed me a prototype that he’d made. We went over some other options but having great confidence in his skills, my plan was to let him do his thing. One feature he suggested was a small hole to accommodate a lavalier mic, which can be positioned directly into the air column where all of the pitch bending mojo takes place. When run through a PA system with a touch of reverb and delay, a complex sonic landscape is unleashed.
Last week he called to say he had four drums for me to look at. Two were fully glazed and two were only glazed on the top of the ‘bottle.’ The body of the those drums were fired with a saw dust technique which looks (and smells) wild and fiery. It produces an earthy and satisfying texture. I took one of each: a fully glazed drum with a sort of lavender/tan finish and a partially glazed one with a bright green top.
One more thing to note: those ridges on the neck of the ‘bottle’ are not just for show, they’re for scraping and getting yet another texture out of the instrument.
Here are some close up pics: