The musician, composer, and producer Tom Holkenborg, who performs under the stage name Junkie XL, custom ordered this month’s featured kit to use while creating the score to the 2018 action film Tomb Raider. To match the movie’s Pacific-island setting, Holkenborg commissioned the San Diego-based boutique percussion manufacturer and owner of Pasifika Drums and Repair, Christiaan Verbeek, to create an authentic set of handmade drums to use in the soundtrack’s production. “I did a lot of research online to find the instruments and see what kind of sound they make,” Holkenborg explains. “I wasn’t super familiar with their tones. I found some amazing clips from various parts of the Pacific where drum ensembles would compete with one another. Usually the performances involved two bass drums, two standing drums, several woodblocks in different sizes, and hand drums.”

Verbeek tells MD that the set he made for Holkenborg consists of 22″, 24″, and 32″ tall log drums (“toeres”); 16″ and 20″ bass drums (“pahus”) with goat-skin heads; higher-pitched 18×10 and 18×12 drums (“faatetes”) with goat-skin heads; and 12″ and 14″ hand drums (“pahu tupais”) that are four feet tall. “The drums tune very easily because they have ropes on the side that you can loosen or tighten,” Holkenborg says. “However, the pitch difference isn’t as drastic as it is with a timpani, for instance. But these drums always keep that mellow, woody sound.”

Holkenborg explains that playing on an animal-skin head can be more intense than a typical synthetic option. “You have to work harder to get sound out of it, and physically it’s more draining to play them for a long time,” he explains. And although you can play the drums with your hands, Holkenborg says that Verbeek also made speciality mallets for the instruments. “Christiaan made a bunch of different sticks for me. Most of them have a heavy end with a smaller tip on the other side. And obviously I experimented with other mallets to see what kinds of different sounds I could get out of the drums.”

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