The Fairtrade Call of Distant Drums

Distant Drums source their instruments directly from the producers. In addition to this fair trade style of purchasing, the company also pledged to re-invest a significant portion of profits made from their drums back into the very communities that produce them.

Feature by Jasper Hamill | 16 Apr 2006

Too often, cash exhorted by intimidating charity muggers down Sauchiehall Street or dropped into teddy-shaped collection boxes, seems untraceable. Your attention is attracted, your conscience pricked and your guilt assuaged upon exchange of a fiver, but, with no clear idea of where the money will go or the possible good it might do, the act of goodwill lacks any sense of actual interaction.

Chris Hutchinson - who, under the names ChrisDaFunk and Cactus T, is well known in Glasgow for being a multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire - realised the inefficiency of the structures put in place to distribute money from rich to less developed countries. Angered by the global trade inequities that impel poorer countries to sell their commodities at a price not concomitant with their final market value, Chris decided that these problems could only be surmounted by directly engaging with producers and communities. This is why he founded Distant Drums.

Based around rigorous fair trade principles and currently awaiting official Fairtrade status, Distant Drums sources hand-made Djembe drums directly from producers in Ghana, paying them a fee that corresponds exactly with their sale price in Britain. Evoking the lush savannas and virgin rainforests of Africa, Djembe drums are rich in history, invented in 12th century Mali and subsequently used for Islamic Ramadan Celebrations, various seasonal rituals, and the famous Sabar dance, where single women of marital age dance suggestively to entice men.

The intention of Distant Drums is to plough back any profit directly back into Ghanaian communities. Rather than handing money to a charity, Chris's intention is to hand money directly to the institutions that need the cash, to build schools, shore up infrastructures or renovate medical facilities without the need for a cumbersome middle-man.

Travelling directly to rural Ghana, Chris sourced artisan craftsmen to make the drums from goatskin and whole tree trunks using traditional techniques from locally sourced, ecologically-sustainable and organic sources. Every drum is individual - as their circumferences is actually dictated by the dimensions of the original tree - decorated with beautiful images ranging from abstract patterns to figurative images of animals. Each drum also has its own sound and feel and a range of timbres encompassing a spectrum from room-shaking bass booms to trebly chirrups when played at the rim.
Drums are perhaps the most instantly accessible instrument, with anyone able to bang out rhythms within minutes of picking one up, this is also why Chris's company will be working not only with adults but also with schools, setting up drum circles for stressed business people or lively school-children, so that they will be able to thump out their frustration on the drum's resilient goat-skins.

Buying an instrument from Distant Drums gives customers the chance to play the most powerful hand-drum in the world whilst being secure in the knowledge that the craftsmen who made it are recompensed for their effort in an equitable manner.

For further information phone Chris Hutchinson on 0794 011 6759