What the ‘bleep’ is a Bodhran?
I play drums. I’ve been known to play pots, pans and tables in the absence of a drum. Or a nice Ludwig drum kit if I’m lucky enough to be in the same room with one.
But my first love is the Bodhran, which makes me a bodhranii. Think Ireland or Scotland; Celtic music with its tribal sounds and nearly out-of-control, yet rigidly intense sound. It brings thoughts and visual pictures of white smoke and sparks dancing in the frigid night sky, while bulky Scotsmen stay warm near the fire by drinking heartily and challenging each others’ manhood.
The bodhran is a carefully crafted, circular piece of wood with sheepskin (or goat depending on where it’s made) tightly pulled over the edges and fastened to create the drum head. There are ornate, hand-decorated bodhrans with double-chambers that enhance the power of the sound that resonates when the tipper (the wooden “drum stick” used to create the percussion) connects to the skin. There are simple ones with nothing more than a cross bar and thin layer of skin – more challenging to get a deep sound from, but ever so flexible and can create a tune when the hand bends it just so. Bodhrans are versatile, delightful, carnal and ancient.
If you have an interest in playing or just want to listen to this wonderful music, find a session (or “seisiun”) at a Pub near you. If you aren’t close to a pub, search YouTube, but it’s always more fun to be there in person. You might find yourself wanting to pick up a drum or a set of spoons to join in! The music and the people who attend are infectious, and it’s possible you’ll leave as I did from my first and subsequent experience at a seisiun – with a kinship of sharing music with people from all over the world, across millenniums.