Friday, July 16, 2010

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 cathie ryan alexandria virginiahelped," 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 littlecathie ryan alexandria virginia copyrigh kerry dexter 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.

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


Blogger Wanderluster said...

Who knew there was actually a drum month?! I love the images of the hands with the drums but I'd love to see them even larger for more drama.

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too am amazed there is a drum month! And to just teach yourself to play an instrument like that...

2:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a sucker for this kind of music...kudos to you :0)

2:54 PM  
Anonymous Dominique said...

We've been catching concerts at Detroit's Concert of Colors festival this weekend. We heard a local Irish folk band, the Codgers, play yesterday, and the bodhran was played through most of their performance (spent some time trying to catch a good photo of the bodhran playing guy myself, too). So it was particularly interesting to me to read about the instrument and Cathie Ryan's story here.
Thanks for posting :)

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Frugal Kiwi said...

Great back story. I've always loved Cherish the Ladies and Cathie Ryan.

5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I learn so much on this blog. I had no idea.. really cool. Really interesting.

9:08 PM  
Anonymous Kristen said...

What a great story that she learned in part by practicing with a dictionary. I'm going to share her story with my kids.

10:42 PM  
Anonymous Melanie Haiken said...

Really interesting, and I love the way you list other posts at the end, so interested readers like me can dig deeper once hooked. I wasn't familiar with Cherish the Ladies, so it was fun to read about them as well as the bodhran, which is a sound I've always loved.

1:43 AM  
Anonymous The Writer's [Inner] Journey said...

A drum month! Wow. I'm passing this on to my friend whose son is starting at the Berklee College of Music next month. His instrument: drums. Also, your post reminded me of the movie from a few years ago: The Visitor. Have you seen it. It was through playing the drum that a relationship evolved, but in a heartbreaking way.

5:26 PM  
Anonymous Bodhran Tipper said...

I just found your site and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your posts.In any case I'll be subscribing to your blog and I hope you post again soon

9:37 PM  

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