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The Ethics of Drum Making

Making your own drum is a truly magical experience. You develop a relationship with your drum as you bring it into being. I'm not suggesting you can't develop a deep relationship with a bought drum. It's just different.

Before I planned my first drum making workshop, I sent out some feelers to gauge interest and one of the questions I was asked was whether it would be possible to make a drum with a synthetic skin. Of course, I understand the ethical reasons behind wanting to make a drum without using animal hide and so set off to research this possibility.

Synthetic Drum Skins

It's easy to buy a synthetic skin drum, but harder to find synthetic skins to use in drum making. Synthetic skins are not without ethical problems either, I discovered.

Synthetic drums are not eco-friendly. They are made from plastic and as we know from the many images and campaigns at the moment, our use of plastic has had catastrophic consequences for our planet and the wildlife that we share it with. Although they have some advantages over hide drums, such as their stability in changes of humidity, from a use-of-resources point of view, they are no better than hide drums.

Rawhide drum skins

So, I needed to look into the ethics of drum making with hides more closely. Animal hides have been used in drum making for thousands of years, but does that make it ethical? More research. I narrowed down my suppliers and looked into where they source their hides.

My suppliers are all UK based. It used to be fairly easy to import hides from the USA, but these days it is not easy at all. The hides they supply do not come from animals killed for their hides; the animals are not bred or farmed for our use. Instead they come from wild animals.

UK Deer Populations

In the UK, deer no longer have any of their natural predators, such as wolves. Left to their own devices, the deer populations would become too large and have a negative effect on the ecosystem, and so each year, a cull is carried out. I know this is not an ideal scenario. However, it would happen regardless of our drum making - in fact most hides from these culls are just discarded (the meat is usually sold on). Buying and using these hides at least goes some way to ensuring an animal's spirit is respected.

Making a drum from a hide is a very spiritual experience. It begins by giving thanks to and honouring the spirit of the animal.

I know that for some, this will not be enough to make them feel comfortable making a drum from hide, and that is OK. However, for me, it feels better to use the hide of an animal who would die anyway, to give some meaning to its death beyond the cull than it does to make a drum with plastic which will cause further harm to our world.

I hope this explains my decision not to use synthetic skins.

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