Cochiti artisan to give instrument making demonstration at Pecos National Historical Park - Albuquerque Journal

Cochiti artisan to give instrument making demonstration at Pecos National Historical Park

A finished drum made by Carlos Herrera, Cochiti Pueblo. (Courtesy of Carlos Herrera)

The emblem for Cochiti Pueblo is not too subtle – a traditional ceremonial drum.

The deeply resonant drums have become synonymous with the pueblo and one its leading craftsman, Carlos Herrera, will be demonstrating his art and discussing the importance of native drum making on Saturday, June 18, and Sunday, June 19, at the Pecos National Historical Park visitor center from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

“I’ve been making drums my entire life,” said Herrera, 41, a third-generation drum maker. “It’s been passed through the family.”

Herrera, who traces his ancestry back to the Pecos Pueblo, has given similar demonstrations not only around the state, but also at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.

“Cochiti has been, ever since recorded history – Adolph Bandelier even recorded it – since then, Cochiti was well renowned for having good drum makers,” he said. “My grandfather, not sure where he learned it from but his father passed away when he was in the third grade so he came back home to help the family. My grandfather was a jack-of-all-trades; building houses, farming, making drums and making things in order to support the family so they could have food on the table.”

From those humble beginnings, a family tradition was born.

“It’s a symbol of the art,” Herrera said of drum making, “for many of the arts and crafts in the pueblo world. For people like my grandfather, they were able to take drums and bring them to a high level of quality. Cochiti drums, the ones that we consider Cochiti drums, are designed to be used in ceremonies. And they would have black heads on the top and bottom. And they would be painted with different colors that orient with the different directions.”

A number of drums in the process of being dried and awaiting final decoration. (Courtesy of Carlos Herrera)

Herrera will discuss the importance of drums and how traditional hand tools are used in their development.

“We try to stick with as many of the traditional means of producing drums as my grandfather did,” Herrera said. “We prefer to use hand tools. It helps with the level of precision and wood working. It’s a lot more controllable than using mechanical means.”

That means simple things like hand saws and bow saws to cut the logs and mallet- or hand-driven chisels.

Herrera’s grandfather even created his own tools, for instance taking an old farming scythe blade and fashioning it into a drawing tool.

The distinctive deep tones comes from the rawhide – not leather – drum covers, he said.

“The difference is leather has the primary layer of skin removed and then it’s flexed to make it soft,” Herrera said. “Rawhide is hard. The only thing we’ve done is removed the hair and grease and fat underneath. Then it’s soaked in water and stretched over the drum when it’s wet.”

Noted Cochiti Pueblo drum maker Carlos Herrera will be giving a drum-making demonstration at Pecos National Historical Park visitor center June 18 and 19, 2022. (Courtesy of Carlos Herrera)

This can take from three to six months, he said as artificial means of drying such as chemicals are avoided because it makes the rawhide more fragile.

“I think the characteristics of a Cochiti drum, they vary depending on the ceremony that is going on,” Herrera said. “A lot of our ceremonies, we want to have a drum that has a bass sound and a note with a higher octave on the opposite side. A lot of the dancers, the drummer will occasionally flip the drum without missing a beat.”

Producing the different tones is a matter of understanding that the rawhide pieces from different parts of the cow’s body create different sounds.

“So by using different areas of rawhide, it gives every chant different tones,” he said. “That’s the magic of the drums. There’s only so much the drum maker can do in order to produce the tones and the rest comes from the drying process. And some drums make it and some don’t.”

Finally, Herrera will show how to create the drum body.

“What kind of wood, where can you find this type of wood, where aspen can be found and when we get out in the harvest?” he said. “We’ll show working on shaping and chiseling the drums.”

Home » Entertainment » Arts » Cochiti artisan to give instrument making demonstration at Pecos National Historical Park


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
Jim Eckles digs deeper into the mystery of Victorio ...
Arts
Historian to present new findings on ... Historian to present new findings on who Doc Noss was
2
Composer looks to continue moving crowds
Arts
Richard Cameron-Wolfe joined Spanish composer Agustín ... Richard Cameron-Wolfe joined Spanish composer Agustín Castilla-Ávila and Austrian composer Wladimir Rosinskij to perform 'Nomads-Oasis.'
3
Chester T. French came to Duke City to help ...
Arts
French opened his mortuary, called C.T. ... French opened his mortuary, called C.T. French, Undertaker, in 1907, at the corner of Fifth Street and Central Avenue
4
Albuquerque artist 'interested in telling a story and giving ...
Arts
Angus Macpherson stars in a 40-year ... Angus Macpherson stars in a 40-year retrospective at Sumner & Dene Gallery through Aug. 27.
5
Four climbers that can scale your chain link fence
Arts
Silver lace vine, honeysuckle, trumpet vine ... Silver lace vine, honeysuckle, trumpet vine and Virginia creeper can all climb and deliver some good color.
6
'The Milagro Beanfield War' author gets personal with latest ...
Arts
'I Got Mine: Confessions of a ... 'I Got Mine: Confessions of a Midlist Writer' is about the ups and downs and the ins and outs of John Nichols' vibrant life.
7
Mohsin Hamid's novel is a fever dream of a ...
Arts
The overall effect is a light ... The overall effect is a light fuzziness that makes any topic approachable, but makes everything hard to fully grasp and focus on.
8
New Mexican was named one of the top 15 ...
Arts
Beginning with 10,000 applicants, Weston Simons ... Beginning with 10,000 applicants, Weston Simons navigated his way through the 2022 U.S. Bartenders' Guild World Class to a top 15 finish.
9
'Grounded in Clay' looks at the pottery of 21 ...
Arts
'Grounded in Clay' shifts traditional curatorial ... 'Grounded in Clay' shifts traditional curatorial models by combining individual voices from the Native communities where the pots were made.