Bodhran maker Sonny Canavan from near Listowel in Co Kerry recorded the following interview for Teilifís Eireann's 'Newsbeat' programme in April 1970. The interviewer was Cathal O'Shannon










Last updated
January 19, 2007

Interview with a bodhran maker
Cathal O'Shannon - You have made many a bodhran.
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 popular?
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 other animal?
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'.



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