Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Cuban style Tumbadoras & Bongoes made by Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith master drum maker's web site.

"These are my own personal opinions,
I am not telling you what to buy, or what not to buy"

In my opinion, these are the best Congas "made anywhere in the United States, even the tumbadoras currently made in Cuba can't touch 'Matt Smiths' drums.
The shape of the drums are excellent, with the "belly" of the drums in the correct place.

Unfortunately, since the death of
Nataly "Junior" Tirado Ruiz, the only place to find a drum made by "Junior" is either once a year on Ebay, or at a yard sale/garage sale (If you're lucky). Jay Bereck' master drum maker of "Skin On Skin" is still making drums, located now in upstate N.Y., though there is a waiting list as is expected for any "custom made" musical instrument of high quality.

I have played Matthew Smiths Congas and have a student who owns four of them. They sound great and look immaculate. Truly "custom made" drums.

My own views and "personal experience" with other drums:
Congas made by "J.C.R." (Bronx, N.Y.) to me are based on "Junior" Tirado drums.

"Junior" Tirado used the back area of Cali's shop to make his drums during a period when he had no other place to make his drums, Cali learned how to make tumbadoras using some of Junior's techniques. Cali Rivera' of J.C.R. is a great metal worker who makes a nice line of cowbells, timbales and bongoes, makes repairs, re-glues, flesh hoops, crowns, lugs etc. and is a very friendly and humble person.

My personal experience with drums made by "Isla" (Hollywood, California) is the crown tends to bend out of shape after only six months to a year and have an unattractive and horrible looking weird "ridge" in the belly of their drums.

Tycoon Percussion = incredibly ugly assembly line crap... made in Bangkok, Thailand by workers who are paid bull shit wages.

"Moperc" (Canada) , ridiculously priced "designer" drums that weigh a ton and look nothing like the "classic Cuban" shape which I personally prefer. I love Canada and Canadians, but not these drums.
"Sol" (San Francisco) and "Volcano" (
Hawaii) exotic, but visually...no thank you.

"Bauer" (Brasil)... bloated bowling pins, visually unattractive and look like they need to be on a low fat diet.

"Meinl" (germany) assembly line drums that look, feel and play like a child's toy drum to me.
I recently found these two videos on YouTube... I feel sorry for this guy who bought "Meinl" drums that were complete garbage. Video 1 - Video 2

"Lp" Matador / CP's aren't even worth mentioning unless you're a "beginner" or own a summer camp for kids. And "Lp"..... plastic and fiberglass sounds just like "plastic and fiberglass".
The "Lp" so called "Palladium model"... crap made in Asia by workers who are paid bull shit wages. Visually unattractive drums "roughly stylized" after Jay Bereck's "Skin On Skin" and "Junior Tirado's" drums. But musicians who get them for "free" ("endorse") will never complain.
Some people will play rubber, plasic, fiberglass and "mystery materiel" (composite), if it's "given" to them free.

In the world of the "classic acoustic violin"... there is the 'Stradivarius'... in the world of the "tunable acoustic Cuban tumbadora" there was Gonzalo Vergara , Candido Requena then "Junior" Tirado then Jay Bereck's "Skin On Skin" and now Matt Smith's "Ritmo".

Both Natalio "Junior" Tirado and Jay Bereck's drums have "roots" that relate back to the "classic gold standard" shape, size and look created by Gonzalo Vergara in Cuba "over 50 years ago".
Sadly, most "young" drummers have never even seen a
Gonzalo Vergara drum, or one made by Candido Requena, another Cuban classic drum maker.
This is still the shape that Matthew Smith's drums continue to retain the "roots" of in his exceptional "custom made" drums.
Matthew Smith's company is called "Ritmo".

"The classic"

Below are two drums made of Oak, the one on the left belongs to a student of mine and made by Matthew Smith ("Ritmo"). The one on the right is one of mine made by Jay Bereck ("Skin On Skin").
You can see that the "belly" of the drum made by
Jay Bereck ("Skin On Skin") sits slightly lower than on Matt's drum, and Jay's drum has thinner bands that are not highly chromed, instead have a "clean looking" brushed finish.

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