Toca Kalani Flex Drums Tested!
Once again the group over at Toca Percussion has come up with another interesting, unique, and purposeful innovation. Working alongside percussionist and educator Kalani, Toca Percussion has developed the Flex Drum, a hybrid-type djembe that’s not only cool sounding, good-looking, and versatile, but also super lightweight. With a removable pretuned 11" PVC head, the 23" tall PVC-constructed drum is conical in shape. The gray-colored shell is covered with a nice white tribal-type repeating design. The pattern is a nice contrast alongside the rich black head. This versatile drum has many contemporary features and is accommodating to today’s amateur and professional musicians. Oh, and if you have more than one, they’re conveniently stackable.
Multiple Drums In One
Even with its smaller profile, the Flex Drum puts out a surprisingly big sound. The pretuned 11" head has nice open tones and some pretty sharp and popping slaps, à la djembe-style. The cone-shape of the shell helps contribute to the bass tones having a deep and fairly decent sustain. The Flex Drum, however, is more than just one drum. When you take off the removable pretuned head you’ll notice that you now have an 11" frame drum and a rather large tambourim all in one.
Using a lightweight timbale stick, playing the PVC head tambourim style was really cool. The head sounds good on its own. I was impressed. Using various striking tools like brushes, blastiks, and yarn mallets offered many unique timbres and showed off the versatility – or rather, flexibility – of the Flex Drum.
Holding the removable head like a Middle Eastern—style frame drum was very nice, too. There is not much give with the PVC skin so the bass tonality you get when on the shell is considerably more than with the head removed. But, overall playing frame drum—style is very articulate and the pitch is cutting, which is good when playing in an ensemble.
At less than 6 lbs. the Flex Drum with all its power is remarkably lightweight. Really, you wouldn’t believe it by just looking. The Flex Drum comes with a nylon strap for easy handling when playing standing up or quick transport. The strap is easy to adjust, streamlined, and comfortable. There is a rubber foot on the bottom of the shell for protection or seated playing but I found I lost some quality of sound when sitting. I think wearing the drum with the strap is the best way to play.
Another useful feature of the Flex Drum is that you can stack multiple drums inside each other. Because they are so light you can put four or five together with no problem. If you’re organizing a small ensemble of Flex Drums, you’ll have no problem transporting them in a group.
Ready, Set, Go
The middle of my hardwood-floor living room is the perfect place for a little percussion jam. The acoustics are perfect. Lofting the ultra-light Flex Drum strap over my shoulders was a cinch. Having a light drum really helps make playing less wearing and strenuous. I didn’t have to worry about a heavy pull on my body every time I hit the drum. Accessing the head in the standing position was no problem and my hands were able to make steady contact with the playing surface. Nice big bass tones filled the room while staccato slaps cut powerfully into the rhythms.
After a steady little jam I had no fatigue in my hands and the effects from banging on the lightweight drum were way less than a traditional heavy wooden djembe. The Flex Drum has great projection and volume. I found in an ensemble hitting harder was not going to necessarily equal louder performance. I was hitting a little harder to push the drum but there’s only so much you can get out of it. Taking off the head during a song was easy and let me go from djembe-style to a Brazilian tambourim and then back again. It was a lot of fun. It would be nice to have an 11.75" or even 12"-diameter sizes to add to the Flex Drum line.
I really enjoyed playing the Flex Drum. I don’t know of any other drum that’s quite like it. The removable head is a great design feature and very unique. The versatility of the PVC material head gives a player multiple ways to play. The amazing shell is unbelievably lightweight and yet still puts out plenty of sound. It would, however, be nice to have more than one size to choose from. At this price point, I think you get a lot of bang for your buck. Both professional and amateur percussionists will enjoy exploring the many musical possibilities of a Flex Drum.
Playing Surfaces 11" PVC material
Shell 23"-tall PVC material
Finish Plain gray PVC with white tribal print
Features Removable head, lightweight, accompanying strap, easily stackable for transportation, rubber foot on bottom of shell.
List Price $149