Cooperman: Jamey Haddad Frame Drums

jamey haddad

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.

Out Of The Box

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

Hadjira — Jamey Haddad AIS (Artist Innovation Series)

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.


16" 99 Slapback Tar


When he approached Cooperman with the idea of the 99 Slapback tar in the mid 1990s, Haddad suggested several variations of drums-within-drums. The 99 Slapback tar emerged out of these early ideas as a shaker drum with a cherry wood shell that resembles the iconic Remo Ocean Drum. It possesses the same range of tuning capabilities of the Cooperman tar and plays like a Moroccan bendir. Matt Kilmer, a former student of Haddad’s at the Berklee College Of Music, helped to develop these drums, which come in both 12" and 16" diameters.

Shaking this drum evokes the dramatic sounds of ocean waves crashing into cliffs. A hefty load of steel shot is captured between the Remo Renaissance playing head and the drum’s removable mesh back, which features a “splash zone” of highly responsive Remo Weatherking material. Although the drum comes standard with steel shot, it would be interesting to insert beads or shells into the drum for an entirely different sound.

The 99 Slapback’s scuffed Weatherking playing surface adds a unique dimension to the sound while playing and shaking the drum. The drum makers at Cooperman scuff the head by hand with sand paper in a circular motion in order to achieve a textured surface. Even though this drum is often played in a lap-style position, I preferred the more intimate playing experience afforded with the traditional grip, holding the bottom of the drum with my left hand with the head facing away from me.

jamey haddad

18" DoubleTake Tar — Jamey Haddad AIS (Artist Innovation Series)

The DoubleTake tar is the most recent version of Cooperman’s Haddad-inspired drums. Haddad’s vision for this instrument was to affix a smaller drum inside the cherry wood tar shell. To accommodate this vision, Cooperman incorporated a simple, low-tech means of attaching alternate rims into the frame of its standard tar drums. An Azerbaijani ghaval-like hoop and a small shaker drum, both made of ash wood, can be inserted into the frame.

The hoop and shaker inserts significantly enhance the drum’s tones. With the tuning wrench, the inserts can be easily placed into the shell or taken out and used on their own. The adhesive rubber bumpers ensure the inserts will stay put if they’re set down, and that the inner shells won’t move from side to side while playing. The DoubleTake tar is fitted with a Remo Renaissance head, which comes standard on all the company’s tar drums, providing deep and expressive tones. After playing this drum for an extended amount of time, the shell warms up and the drum begins to sing and hum. Haddad plays in the lap-style position with the insert at the “six o’clock” position, at the bottom of the drum. He strikes the top of the shell while playing and/or shaking the drum.


Outside of gigs, I often play frame drums outdoors, while walking through forests or sitting on grass. For that reason, I was glad each of these drums can be carried and transported with drum bags that are custom manufactured and designed by Humes & Berg with frame drum players in mind. These heavy-duty black Cordura bags are padded with grey shearling lining to protect the drums whether you’re braving the Seattle rain (in my case) or the New York hustle and bustle. The bags are fitted with a heavy-duty zippered pocket and contain a removable shoulder strap. A tuning wrench is also included with every drum.


MODEL & LIST PRICE Hadjira — Jamey Haddad AIS (Artist Innovation Series) $200
Configuration Grips for left handed and right handed musicians, row of five pandeiro jingles, two sets of riq jingles, two-ply head, diameter of 9.125" and a depth of 2.5"
Shells Cherry wood
Finish Hand-rubbed lacquer with wax overcoat
Features A copper colored set of riq jingles made of bronze and a slightly thicker brass set of riq jingles; interchangeable jingles; Remo Weatherking inner-ply head and cloth outer-ply head
Extras Humes & Berg soft case and tuning wrench included

MODEL & LIST PRICE 16" 99 Slapback Tar Jamey Haddad $290
Configuration Shaker drum with top and bottom head
Shells Cherry wood
Finish Hand-rubbed lacquer with wax overcoat
Features Steel shot, scuffed Remo Renaissance playing head; removable mesh back head featuring a “splash zone” of highly responsive Remo Weatherking material
Extras Humes & Berg soft case and tuning wrench included

MODEL & LIST PRICE 18" DoubleTake Tar Jamey Haddad AIS $315
Configuration Frame drum with interchangeable shaker and hoop inserts containing adhesive rubber bumpers
Shells Cherry wood drum with ash wood hoop and shaker inserts
Finish Hand-rubbed lacquer with wax overcoat, black shaker insert
Features Remo Renaissance head; inserts consist of Azerbaijani ghaval-like hoop with rings and a small shaker drum
Extras Humes & Berg soft case and tuning wrench included


Try as I might, I just couldn’t find a significant flaw with any of these drums. Cooperman’s long history with frame drum craftsmanship, working closely with the some of the most accomplished global artists, seems to be paying off in kind. Frame drummers will have plenty to drool over with these unique instruments.