Ashiko Drum Care & Maintenance


An Ashiko with a natural hide head and rope tensioning requires the same basic care as a Djembe. A little extra care is needed for the Ashiko head as they are usually a bit thinner. Just exercise a little extra care not to puncture the head.

Regarding the shells, there are two basic types of construction: those from a single piece of wood and others from staves (strips) of wood. If you have an Ashiko made with staves, no extra care is needed other than an occasional wipe down with a clean damp cloth.

Ashikos made from a single piece of carved wood may tend to crack if you don't keep the wood hydrated.  For these drums you will want to replenish the oils in the wood to help prevent the drum from cracking. Shea Butter or teak oil works well but you can also use linseed oil. Apply a light coat of oil to the interior of the drum by placing a few tablespoons of oil on a fist sized ball of cloth. Rub the cloth on the interior of the drum being careful not to get oil on the drum head. A light rub down every 4-6 months is sufficient.

Here are the general points found on the Djembe Care page that apply to the Ashiko:

    • Play with your hands, no sticks or mallets. This will ensure optimal head life. However, the object of percussion is to make sounds. So you can use whatever you like, just beware you're likely to damage the head in the process. There is a secondary benefit to using your hands. The oils from your hands replenish the oils in the head. So, play often! If you don't play often, i.e. weekly, put a drop or two of massage oil on your hand and rub it in before playing. Olive oil and Shea Butter are also acceptable oils, but massage oils feel and smell nicer. Remember, very little is needed. Don't use hand creams before playing your drum.
    • Use a drum bag. Well crafted bags can be purchased for as little as $50.00. This is a small investment when you consider the cost to replace a head. Having a head replaced usually costs around $60.00.
    • Don't expose your Ashiko drum to rapidly changing temperatures. This is where a good drum bag comes in. Buy a bag with an ample amount of padding. The padding acts as insulation. When moving the drum between extreme temperatures, unzip the drum bag and leave the drum in the bag until the drum comes to room temperature. You want to slow down the rate at which your drum acclimates to the new temperature.
    • Don't use cleaners to clean your goat skin drum head; just play it.
    • Don't expose a goat skin Ashiko drum head to the rain. The head will turn to a soft rag like condition and the drum will lose all its tension. If this happens, don't play the drum in this condition. You may unseat the head from the rings. Let the drum head dry naturally. Don't use hair dryers, heat guns or fans. You want the goat skin to dry evenly.
  • Be mindful not to bang your drum on a door frame, table or counter top edges. They seem to jump out and cut the drum head. I have repaired many drums that had compression damage to the bearing edge. The bearing edge is where the drum head stretches over the edge of the drum. A smooth, even bearing edge is important to obtain an open tone. If this edge is damaged, a new edge must be put on the drum, usually along with a new head.

Play often and play from the heart!