I spent the past two weeks in world-percussion-enthusiast heaven playing on three beautiful Cooperman frame drums inspired by legendary percussionist Jamey Haddad. Like most percussionists, I’m fascinated by the wide array of frame drums that exist in the different parts of the world — from the dark tones of Iranian dafs, to the up-beat rhythms of the Irish bodhráns, to the torrential notes produced by the South Indian kanjiras. Due to the ubiquity of frame drumming, techniques and playing styles are varied according to tradition, but have evolved over time as frame drums have spread across cultures and continents.
Based in Bellow Falls, Vermont, The Cooperman Company has been at the vanguard of developing contemporary designs of traditional frame drums since its inception in 1961. Specializing in rope-tension snare and bass drums, fifes (small flutes), classical and marching drum sticks, and hand drums and frame drums in copious variety, the company’s commitment to crafting one-of-a-kind instruments is a response to its endorsing artists’ desire to explore, in new and unconventional ways, traditional playing styles and instruments indigenous to diverse cultures. In some cases, Cooperman has modified traditional frame drums. In other instances, the company has radically reconfigured traditional instruments by creating an entirely new type of drum.
Cooperman sent me three drums that represent its “evolved approach” to conventional frame drums. These Hybrid, or Fusion, drums include tambourines and frame drums played by some of the most prolific percussionists in the world, such as Glen Velez, Ganesh Kumar, and of course, the highly respected Jamey Haddad.
I had the opportunity to play three particular drums inspired by Jamey Haddad and designed and built by Cooperman’s master craftsmen: the Hadjira, the 99 Slapback Tar, and the DoubleTake Tar. The physical and sonic qualities of these drums are described below in detail. But the bottom line is that these three drums possess unlimited musical possibilities.
Jamey Haddad approached Cooperman in the early 1990s with the idea of the Hadjira, a multifaceted tambourine. The instrument, currently in its third iteration, has evolved alongside Haddad’s playing style. From its inception, it has been constructed as a hybrid between the Arabic riq, South Indian kanjira, and Brazilian pandeiro. The latest version is reinvented to accommodate Haddad's increased focus on the pandeiro. This versatile drum, constructed of a cherry wood shell, has a diameter of 9.125" and a depth of 2.5". You can find a full description of the Hadjira and a video sample of Haddad playing these instruments on the Cooperman Web site.
The Hadjira’s cutting-edge design enables its use across multiple musical genres. The shell contains five rows of brass pandeiro jingles as well as two sets of larger riq jingles, a copper-colored set made of bronze, and a slightly thicker brass set. Although Haddad’s vision is to play only one set of riq jingles at a time, depending on if you are right or left handed, I prefer to play rhythms featuring both sets of riq jingles simultaneously. I often found myself playing one jingle with the pointer finger of my right hand and the other with the pinky finger of my left hand. With the tuning wrench, the riq jingles can be swapped out if you find brass a bit too bright or the bronze a bit too dark. Also, the pandeiro or riq jingles can be taken off and the pandeiro jingles can be tightened or loosened depending on your own preferences. This customization really comes in handy on the gig.
The drum is outfitted with an inner ply of Remo Weatherking Mylar and an outer ply of cloth. The cloth dampens the overtones and allows for a range of pitches, from low to high. Applying various amounts of pressure with your non-playing hand will modulate the pitch of the drum. You may also notice that the head appears to be burnt onto the shell. Essentially it is. The head is heated and stapled, formed into a groove in the shell, and secured with a chord. Overall, I am impressed with the flexibility of the Hadjira and can envision myself using it in a variety of musical settings.