Ashikos are a percussion instrument played with bare hands, producing a sound similar to its more commonly known counterpart, the djembe. Djembes have a bowl-shaped shell, often roughly hatcheted from a single chunk of tree trunk as in the typical Ghana imports, while ashikos are built by gluing staves to form a tapered cylinder. The stave construction enables more efficient use of raw materials, makes for a more uniform shell that requires little maintenance and is not subject to the cracking that monolignic shells typically endure, allows for variation among wood species within the stave arrangement, as well as the potential to create much lighter-weight drums for its dimensions, with only limited loss of resonance in the absence of the bowl that defines the djembe sound.
This part of the site was intended to highlight imported items that we felt embodied the principles by which we create our goods; but in our incidental searching over the past several years for such items, I have become resistant to support the selling of products made in parts of the world (and parts of this country) that take advantage of a wage and benefit disparity in its labor force in order to undercut any 'competitor' who strives to attain ecological and economic sustainability by appropriately factoring the cost of raw materials and labor.
The ashikos I am placing on these pages are ones I have built. I purchase the goat hides from a slaughterhouse that processes goat for Mexican and Middle Eastern food markets. I don't philosophically support agri-biz but the hides are considered a byproduct of this enterprise and my cost for them basically covers the effort on behalf of those working in the meat industry to salt, box and ship them to me. I'd considered placing 'Remo' artificial heads on the shells, but the environmental cost to producing those is uncertain to me and I suspect it to be more environmentally unfriendly than the former when factoring in the amount of petroleum used in the ingredients and manufacture, etc. My original design followed most others; Mali-weave rope tuning, which tends to intimidate people (though it is deceptively simple) and also lent to raw fingers and rope with repeated tunings. Cutting a channel in the shell and making hardwood tuning pegs takes significantly more upfront effort, but makes a final product that is intuitive to tune, easy on rope and hands, and is aesthetically pleasing. Goat hides are left with fur intact around the rim unless it has been removed by natural means; no chemical processing. Rope is of petroleum derivation for now as I investigate the sourcing of hemp rope of at least equal integrity. Shells are finished with typical wood stains, but I am working toward building shells that are finished with natural waxes only. Please see individual descriptions and images of each ashiko by clicking the images below.