Tony Artis and Andre Rosa-Artis practice “one of the oldest traditions in the world”: African drum making. After watching craftsmen make djembe drums on a trip to Ghana, Tony was inspired to learn to do the same. He received multiple fellowships to study drum making with artists in Ohio and Cuba. Tony also studied under master drum maker Prince Julius Adeniyi until he could pursue drum making full time. Andre, a DJ and hand percussionist, is building entire drums from start to finish for the first time in his life thanks to this apprenticeship, utilizing skills in mathematics, carpentry, macramé, and welding all at once.
According to Tony and Andre, the objective of the drum is to speak things into existence. Tony notes the Yoruba word for this phenomenon is ofo àse (the power of the word). As Andre explains: “When you build a drum from scratch, your energy–your blood, your sweat, your tears–are in the drum, so when you play the drum, you speak with that energy.” “The drum is known as the ear of God,” says Tony. “When you make your own drum, that drum is your voice.”