It’s a canoe-drum, it’s the Conundrum, and its maker is a bit of a curmudgeon.
David Hynes said he got the idea for Conundrum when a gallery in Ottawa told him he could not pursue his original idea – “for any number of reasons” – which was lighting a canoe on fire.
“I hung up the phone and said, ‘This is a real conundrum,’” he recalled, and that was that.
What Hynes did was make a Canadian musical instrument he says is unique in the world, a rawhide-covered cedar strip canoe 15 people can drum at the same time.
It was a hit at the Muhtadi International Drumming Festival in the Beach Saturday, where people wouldn’t leave the 16-foot watercraft alone.
“People from different ethnicities, people from all over the world have played together,” said Hynes, who was born in Toronto and lives northeast of it now (Exactly where, he wouldn’t say.)
“That’s what it’s all about. I’ve only learned that since I made it.”
Now the Conundrum has a life of its own. Hynes’ interactive creation has gone to New York City, and will visit the Canada’s East Coast this year. It may do a cross-country tour in 2017 for Canada’s 150th birthday - but then again, it might not, Hynes said.
Before leaving, a young couple from Sweden ask for Hynes’ help in building a Conundrum of their own.
Muhtadi International Drumming Festival CEO Tasha Thomas said the drumming festival has seen a big change in its audience, “both the face of the audience, and the size.”
The mid-afternoon attendance Saturday was sparse. At Queen’s Park, she said, Muhtadi could count on downtown Toronto’s arts community to walk in.
“I think they are not venturing so far east,”
Still, Woodbine Park being in the Beach, there are more families and young professionals coming. Muhtadi was ready for that: there were crafts tents where children could make a paper tambla or an African drum, and youth drumming workshops.
Thomas is also set to take over the running of Muhtadi from her father, festival founder and renowned percussionist Muhtadi Thomas, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s five years ago.
“Next year will more than likely be his last performance,” she said, adding the family still wants to see the festival grow into his vision of being “the go-to place for all things drums” in Toronto.
This year the fest had more of a South Asian flavour – a lot of performers that come from that community Thomas said – but still had Brazilian, African, Cuban and many other percussion styles.
The free event continues Sunday. See www.muhtadidrumfest.com for details.