national drum month: bodhran
July is national Drum Month in the United States. The bodhran is a frame drum often used in Irish and Scottish music. A drum story...
During the time Cathie Ryan was part of the band Cherish the Ladies, her primary role was that of lead singer. But she wanted to challenge herself further. "I really wanted to be part of the music somehow. I was just so exciting to me, Eileen Ivers on the fiddle, Joanie Madden, Maureen Doherty, Siobhan Egan, Mary Coogan with their instruments -- I wanted to be a part of that sound they made. I thought about the bodhran, and Joanie actually also wanted me to play it, because we had a lot of treble instruments but there was no bass, so it was nice to bring some bottom to the sound.
"So I bought a tourist bodhran," Ryan said, "and I started practicing in my apartment, and driving my neighbor crazy! That's why my publishing company is called Wake the Neighbors Music, because I was up in my apartment banging away, and my neighbor finally said, could you please not be practicing so much? So I started practicing with the tipper on a big dictionary. It didn't have the bounce of the goatskin, but it helped," Ryan said. Though she practiced by playing along with traditional music, "of course, being from Detroit I brought sort of a funk approach into my bodhran playing, which was maybe not always welcome in Cherish!" she continued, laughing.
Ryan is now well into a solo career, with four well respected recordings. The bodhran, and her unique approach to rhythm, are still part of her work.
"My style works, for what I do now with my own band especially, because I love just that little bit of a funky rhythm on jigs and reels, it's a very cool sound. It's a great instrument. I love it, it just has such a primal sound. Everybody loves rhythm, when you're a kid in kindergarten you're bangin' away on the tambourine and on the little drum. I'm not a brilliant bodhran player, I don't claim to be, but I think it adds to the songs, and makes you a part of the tunes."
photographs are from Burlington, Vermont, Carlingford, Ireland, and Alexandria, Virginia.
you may also wish to see
Delicious Baby's Photo Friday, where travelers offer new insights to the world each Friday
Music Road: Cathie Ryan: Songwriter
Music Road: Voices: Cherish the Ladies
want to try the bodhran for yourself? Ray Gallen’s Irish Heartbeat: A Bodhran Tutorial dvd is a good basic introduction.