The symbol is not the dream

When I was young I wanted to drum but I didn’t have encouragement. I remember being told many times to “stop banging” on whatever it was at the moment – a margarine tub, a bucket, or even all of my mom’s pots and pans upended on the floor like a drum kit. They tried to have my dad teach me guitar but my fingers just wouldn’t move right. I joined band and the teacher made me a saxophonist. I even tried learning bass as a teenager. None of that felt right. Part of me always wanted to drum.

Years later I shared this desire with someone very near and dear to me. Another friend had purchased a doumbek and in hushed tones, as if I were embarrassed to admit it, I told her that I had always wanted to do that too. She excitedly told me that I should – but I didn’t right away. Maybe because that friend had just started and I didn’t want to “copy” her. Maybe I was just scared.

A few months later we went to an event put on by a group in the Society for Creative Anachronism. It was called Pennsic and it was incredible. Lots of classes, performances, food, music, parties, great people. And merchants. Several of those merchants sold musical instruments. I decided to splurge and get a doumbek, because who knows if I’d get an opportunity back in Wisconsin. If I had known then what I knew just six months later, I wouldn’t have gotten it – because it was the wrong style for the way I would end up playing. And if I had known then what I knew a 18 months later I would have waited until I got home because not quite 100 miles from my house was a master drum maker.

In that year and a half I purchased five or six drums of varying low to mediocre quality. All but one of those drums has been given away. I purchased two doumbeks from Abdul Hamid Alwan, a wonderful man with a great shop in Milwaukee, WI that sold many, many things. And in the back of that shop were drums.


The one on the right is the first drum I purchased there. It was great and wonderful and I loved playing it. The drum on the left (with the hard case) is one that Hamid used for a while when he performed. It is a gorgeous drum that I bought to play at my first wedding. That marriage didn’t last long and, while this drum is even nicer to play than the first, I could never really bring myself to play it much.

Anyway, I posted on Facebook that I am selling them. Two drums from a now retired master drum maker whose clients included professional musicians in the Middle East. Both have meant a lot to me. But they deserve to be in homes where they bring music and joy.

But don’t worry, I still have this lovely drum…


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