Interview with a bodhran maker
Cathal O'Shannon - You have made many a
Sonny Canavan - I made, I suppose, almost 200
of them over the past 20 years.
C O'S - You kept a herd of goats?
SC - There was often over 50 of them there.
But owing to the call for the bodhrans, they're getting slack now.
C O'S - How is it bodhrans have become so
SC - You get very nice music if you've got the
right tipper. Well, you see, the real tipper is the man that can tip
with his hand. It's from the wrist downwards - to leave the hand flow.
Otherwise the sticks, they're all right.
C O'S - But the man who plays it with his hand
is the good bodhran player?
SC - He's the good bodhran player. There was a
bodhran player from this locality and he could play for any step dancer
without music with the tipping of his fingers. His name was William
Mullins (?) . He was from Gunsboro. He was the best bodhran tipper I
ever heard in my life.
C O'S - How do you go about making a bodhran?
SC - Well, first and foremost, the goat has to
be killed. To finish, the skin has to be punched out - you can't put a
knife in it. When you lift up your skin, you can see through it. It has
to be fine. No bit of flesh or anything in it.
Then you lay it on the ground, the hair up, and you get your lime and
shake it on the hair. All you have to do is come along and rub it in
with your fingers against the hair so that you leave no lump of lime.
If you leave a lump of lime on it, t'will perforate the skin.
C O'S - What do you do next?
SC - You fold it up, with the hair inwards,
just the same as a book. And you tie up that and you bury it. Horse
manure is the best because you have the heat. You can leave it there
from ten to 16 days. Take it up and you can take off the hair with your
fingers. When that is done then, you take it to a running stream and
let the water flow under and over it for four or five days. Take it up
then and tack it on to a very wide board for a few more days. Then you
have to have your rim prepared. Green ash is the best for the rim.
C O'S - Must it be goatskin or can you use any
SC - You could get a greyhound skin, it's out
on its own. That is the best skin of the lot, the greyhound skin.
*Sonny Canavan's bodhran was used in early productions of 'Sive'.