|Malachy Kearns has made bodhrans for 30 years, for professional players and for novices.|
ROUNDSTONE, Ireland - In the shadow of Connemara's Twelve Bens mountains, behind 16th-century Franciscan monastery walls splashed with wild fuchsia, Malachy Kearns spends his days handcrafting one of the country's oldest instruments, the bodhran (pronounced BOW-rawn).
Kearns, who claims to be the world's only full-time bodhran maker, stretches the specially treated goatskin across the beech or birch frame, tapping, listening, adjusting, trying to educe the haunting sound of the traditional drum. Kearns says the instrument has its origins as a skin tray used for drawing turf (or peat) from the bogs, and was later used for winnowing, or separating chaff from wheat. The skins are treated in hydrated lime and other ingredients and soaked for seven to 10 days in a solution of lime sulphide to soften them and remove the hair. Sometimes they are buried in manure for a few days.
Kearns, who began making bodhrans 30 years ago, has crafted instruments for the Chieftains, Christy Moore, and the Riverdance ensemble, among others. His rambling store and workshop, Roundstone Music, includes a craft shop, a music shop, and a coffee shop. Customers can watch Kearns crafting bodhrans, which come in a variety of sizes and can be customized with Celtic designs, names, and dates. Prices range from $29 for an 8-inch mini-bodhran to $359 for a 1-inch deep-rim professional model.
Roundstone Musical Instruments Ltd., IDA Craft Centre, Roundstone, County Galway, Ireland. 011-353-95-35808. bodhran.com.