Photography
© Ely Abrums and Laura Walker

Lee Lujan

Lee Lujan is a native of Taos Pueblo New Mexico, one of the oldest inhabited native villages in the United States. “I grew up watching my Father and Grandfather create drums and work with many of nature’s materials including tanning hides, building adobe structures and drums. I also grew up listening to my Father, Grandfather and Uncles sing our traditional songs with words that are ancient and yet shape our lives still today. These various things we see in nature help us create our songs and drums. The drum serves not only as a musical instrument, but as a tool helping us celebrate life.”

“I and other people familiar withe the craft of drum making pay very close attention to details in the process to ensure a quality outcome. The sound the drum makes, the tone, the tightness of the hide and the deepness of the sound of the drucmtick hitting the drum, the echo, all make a beautiful piece as well as the style. It seems though, that the wood once chosen begins a new life and will determine what shape of drum it becomes and how it will finally live on for it’s owner. In my early twenties I began to learn the art of making drums, testing different techniques and figuring out my own way of working with the wood. I travel miles in nearby New Mexico to find the right trees all trees are down and dead for drums. I use only two types of wood, cottonwood and aspen. They are the best types of wood for drums. The wood and the sound of the drums is what inspire me. I love people’s expressions when they hit the drum and this tells me about my drum. Each individual drum is one of a kind. All the drums I make are hand made in nature because my hand and nature’s hand work together for the design. My drums vary in size with the largest being almost 6 feet in diameter and height. These drums are very had to make and handle, the strength daily needed for stretching the hide across the drum shell by hand. Other drums require a more simple, lighter touch such as a hand drum which is anywhere from seven to twenty inches across. I make what I call pedestal drums that are tall and round. This style of drum is sometimes used as a showpiece to compliment other art, maybe someone’s favorite sculpture or pottery. The larger drums adorn adobe homes for end and coffee tables and some drums are hung in a reverent spot in the homes of men and women who sing during ceremonies, pow-wows and in their daily lives.  All my pieces have my signature mark near the top. The drums of Taos pueblo are not authentic unless signed by the maker. There are many drums on the maker mass produced and inexpensive, but I take my time to hand make these one of a kind drums.”

Fade Out ContentShow Content