Doi Tam village is very famous for its drum-making techniques. The village is located at the foot of Doi Mountain in Doi Son commune, Duy Tien district, Ha Nam province.
There are more than 600 people who are drum makers, most of them are Doi Tam villagers.
Coming to Doi Tam, visitors will see big drums placed in front of each house in the village and hear the sound of planers and saws from every house. Only four workers work in three days to make drums with diameters of 1.5 to 2 meters. They say that stretching the drumhead is the most difficult stage because it requires craftsmen’s skills to assess the sound. The remaining steps like making drum barrel and painting do not require high skills and techniques.
Cutting wood is also important and requires accuracy.
Thanh, a senior drum maker in Doi Tam said that the biggest difference between drums of Doi Tam and of other villages is the sound. The sound of Doi Tam drums are very clear. “It is not by chance that Doi Tam drums are chosen for many big festivals and events of Vietnam,” he said proudly.
To make very big drums, which are called “trong sam” (thunder drum), Doi Tam craftsmen often use jackfruit wood and buffalo skin from the Central Highlands. These drums are produced at order. It takes workers even a year to create “trong sam”. Doi Tam produced tens of “trong sam” for the 1000th anniversary of Hanoi, including the largest drum in Vietnam, which has a diameter of 2.3m and a height of 3m.
The village has produced drums for over 1,000 years. It is said that brothers Nguyen Duc Nang and Nguyen Duc Ban were the founders of Doi Tam. In 986, to welcome King Le Dai Hanh to Doi Tam village to attend a plough ceremony, the two brothers made a big drum, which created sounds like thunder. The brothers were called Trang Sam (Masters of Thunder). In photo: This 1.4m high was made within three days, by four workers.
According to custom, drum-making techniques are transferred to sons and their wives, not daughters and their husbands. Any family that breaches the rules is expelled and cursed and booted from the drum-making occupation. In photo: stretching a drumhead.
A drum is made in three major stages: leather tanning, drum-barrel making and drumhead stretching. Doi Tam craftsmen use buffalo skin to make drumheads. They shave buffalo leather till it becomes very thin and dry it in the sun. The drum-barrel is made of dried jackfruit timber.
Doi Tam kids are taught about the village’s tradition when they are 5 years old. At the age of 14-15, Doi Tam boys travel with their fathers to other regions in the country to make and repair drums.
Stretching a drum-head.
The village’s chief, Dinh Van Luong, said since the government banned firecrackers, drum-making has developed strongly. Doi Tam village was recognized as a traditional craft village in October 2004. The Vietnam Craft Village Association granted it the “Vietnam’s outstanding craft village” title in November 2007. Not only does it make drums, the village has formed a drum-playing team to serve festivals in the country.
These drums are ready for sale.
Near Tet, some families in Doi Tam also make wine decanters. Mrs. Sang said that the village has produced this product for around five years. Each decanter is priced from VND130,000 to VND500,000 ($7-25). This is also an important source of income of Doi Tam people. PV