"Drums speak a universal language."

Born in Nigeria, Akeem makes drums and other African musical instruments. As part of a drumming family, he has been playing and making drums since he was five.

“For nine generations, drums have been in my family,” Akeem says, and for thirty years he has followed in the footsteps of his ancestors, shaping drums of wood, rope, and goatskin. All of his materials come from Africa, and it takes a full week’s work to make two drums.

Drums are used in Africa every day. Akeem explains that, in his native Nigeria, they function as tools of communication, announcing meetings, parties, weddings, and funerals. They beat out warnings, and play an integral role at festivals. They are used to herd animals.

Akeem’s drum types include ashiko, djembe, and talking drums; all instruments are handmade and incorporate materials of Nigeria. The drums are carved from mahogany or teak, topped with cowhide, and laced with rope strings—purchases of the drums support Nigerian farmers, herdsman, weavers, and carpenters.

The shape of the drum dictates the sound; Akeem’s designs range from curved bowl-shapes to hourglasses, and the strings are stretched to adjust, shaping the tone of each the drums.

Now, Akeem is based in Santa Fe, New Mexico; he has exhibited at the International Folk Art Market | Santa Fe since 2006. Tuning the drums, he says, is the best part of the job, for he is the first to hear how each element—the wood, the stretched rope and hide—contributes to the ultimate sound.

“Drums make people happy, especially kids.” Akeem says. Working for himself allows him a creative freedom he embraces, and he feels grateful for the time he is able to spend with his family.  

Meanwhile, he is proud to know that the sales of his drums help to keep an ancient tradition alive. He is determined to see his family’s drums into their tenth generation.


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