Drumskull Drums: Art In Action

By Phil Hood Published Septemeber 21, 2009

It's all about the art at Drumskull Drums in Santa Cruz, California. Co-owners Matt Hardwick, Ryan Bennett and Kevin Walsh run the small manufacturer of custom djembes. They are dedicated students of West African and Congolese drum and dance, and regulars on the African drumming scene in northern California. They are inspired by the great drumming masters and teachers of Africa to create drums that are meticulously faithful to African traditions while standing up to the demands of modern players.


Wood comes in one door. Djembes leave by the other.

Dozens of djembes are under construction at any one time.

A staff of six works in the factory.

Intricate carving is a Drumskull specialty.

They offer many options and make other drums as well as djembes.

Dunun drums.

The finished product. Let’s play.

Drumskull drums are built entirely by hand in their well-organized Santa Cruz shop, which is stacked with shells in various stages of carving and finishing. In addition to djembes they also make some Ashiko drums (conical drums, constructed of staves) Dununs (sets of three drums that provide rhythm for djembe ensembles), Balafons (native marimbas) and other instruments. But their main business is building djembes to customer specifications and their drums are widely acknowledged as among the very best handmade drums of any type. If you want one they start at $565 and frequently are back-ordered, but worth the wait.

Contact Drumskull Drums or if you're in Santa Cruz, drop by the store, which also carries teaching materials and accessories. Address: 105 Pioneer Street Suite C, Santa Cruz, CA 95060. Telephone 831-429-5766. http://www.drumskulldrums.com