Federico Parra and Ary Lacanna have created one of the world's most intriguing musical instruments, the Garrahand drum. They met in music conservatory and later built the first Garrahand drum together. The Garrahand is a versatile all-purpose hand drum that sounds great in a variety of styles, can be played acoustically or amplified, and is built from the ground up to be a first-class studio recording tool. There's a video at the end of this article so you can hear it in action. We interviewed Federico via email.
What is your background as a musician and how did that lead to making the Garrahand?
I have studied music for 13 years now. My primary concern has been the Chant, but I've also studied piano, Armenian duduk, drums and percussion. It was Mariano Cantero [the great Argentianian percussionist for whom the first Garrahand was made] who taught me drums. Now, I'm studying with David Hykes and I have been in concerts with his European Harmonic Choir, between other projects including composition and teaching. Ary is a professional trumpeter and has played with the some of the best artists of Argentina in recent years.
How long did it take to develop the Garrahand?
It took two years to develop the Garrahand and during the process we had to learn a lot of tools and theories, like Autocad and microphone design theory. My background as a child computer-nerd helped me a lot and Ary is a genius at crafting.
What recordings or artists would you point to as particularly good uses of the Garrahand?
Garrahand is being used well in some areas and not in others. I'm interested in seeing it used in live electronic music, mixed with contemporary drum set, accompaniment for singers, as a teaching tool, and as a music therapy tool. Right now there is an amazing list of percussionists working with Peter Gabriel, Sting, Bjork and others. I imagine the Garrahand being used in many ways with electronic music. The ability to plug in delays, effects and so on, and bring a new kind of electroacoustic instrument to music that is only made by machines, is exciting. In 2010 we'll also be launching a new instrument, so stay tuned.
Mariano Cantero on the Garrahand.
Tell me about the development of your drum. Were you inspired by clay drums or other products?
At the beginning, we were inspired by traditional hand drums to play it with your two hands and nothing more (no sticks needed), and also inspired by metal-melodic instruments in general, all types, from kalimbas to xylophones. The first Garrahand was specially made for Mariano Cantero. He opened for us the professional percussion world, connecting us with all the greatest and famous percussionists of Buenos Aires, Brazil, Tokyo, and some Europeans as well. We sent units for free to all of them and started to be very attentive to their criticisms and desires. "How nice it would be to have the possibility of changing the tune!" or "How lovely it would be to make a smaller version to be able to carry it arround easyly" or "How important would be to have a microphone system that only takes the sounds of the instrument but isolate every other unwanted sound from other instruments". So, we made a real database of all these needs and developed the Garrahand accordingly. Along the way we developed seven new patents on our technology.
What are some of those technologies?
There are many of them, like our unique round-microphone that isolates every sound but the Garrahand tones, or the proprietary tuning system allowing more than an octave of change in every tongue. We also have a unique opening closing system, the special cutting pattern allowing triple melodic range in a smaller instrument, and much more.
And have you met with success?
When we started to sell immediately we had success in Europe, selling to almost every country directly and also through a network of five distributors. My idea from scratch was to make a super instrument, the instrument all percussionist and drummers dream about. So we continued developing it and came to the present model, which includes new features such as direct box circuitry inside, with XLR out (in addition to the 1/4" jack out) and volume control, a newly designed resonator that adds vibration and sustain to the sound, and some color-textured options that will be available soon for those that want a wild-looking instrument as well.
Pete Lockett on the Garrahand.
How do you manufacture the Garrahand?
At the beginning it was handcrafted but we moved from that a long time ago. Components of the Garrahand are made in four different factories, including one that is an automotive company. One is in charge of the body, the other of the cutting, the other of the painting, the other of the electronics. Every component is high quality technology, built to precise tolerances. Garrahand follows the high standards of big companies in the manufacture of our beautiful and unique instrument