Pacific drums for Hollywood

By Aaron Ryan

By Aaron Ryan, Te Rito journalism cadet. 

From their home in the US, a son and father have been responsible for creating Pacific drum sounds for their own company.

Christian and Albert Verbeek are the owners of Pasifika Drums based at their home in San Diego, California. 

The sounds of Pacific drums such as the toere or pate were used pre-missionary times for music, to raise an alarm and ways of warning village people of impending danger. 

These days Pacific indigenous instruments are also used to complement dances, orchestras - and Hollywood blockbusters.  

The father and son duo are responsible for Pacific drums being heard in movies, such as Tomb Raider and Godzilla vs Kong after seeing a demand for Pasifika instruments. 

Christian Verbeek says, “We started making some drums for me. There were some certain tunes and sounds and stuff that we couldn’t really find and they weren’t getting imported over here. 

Their own twist

“And the community was very, very small at the time and so Dad and I were like, 'let's just give it a try and let all some wood and see what we can do.'"

Christian Verbeek is of Dutch and Indonesian descent. His father, Albert, was born on Bali in Indonesia where he learned his trade as a wood carver, using his skills to travel around countries in the Pacific. 

Christian Verbeek learned drumming at a young age and decided to put the two skills set together and create Pacific Island and Māori instruments for people all over the world, including Mitai Māori Village in Rotorua. 

“Pasifika Drums was made to get our humble Pacific instruments out into the world, to put our Indo twist on it, to put our So-Cal twist on it, to make it affordable for those groups who can’t travel to Tahiti, who can’t go to the Cook Islands, who can’t afford $800 or $900 drums.”

He believes tiaki taiao (living with nature) is their point of difference and says it’s important to be environmentally friendly, particularly given the climate challenges Pacific islands face from rising sea water.

'Hearing a tuned drum'

“We don’t cut down any trees, we don’t do anything like that. Everything is sanctioned by the city of San Diego and then we have some wonderful connections that drop some wood off and we’re able to pick some logs up.

“So we make sure that puts a lot of mana into our work.”

Verbeek has been designing custom products for over 10 years but still has the same passion as when he first started.

“Weirdly, it’s hearing a tuned drum. Just to have this log of wood staring at me in the backyard with the bark on it, sometimes it’s got leaves on it still. 

“And getting that from a log of wood to a tuned toere or pate and you hit once and you hear that crisp sound.  I love it, that’s my main thing that wakes me up.”

Pasifika Drums’ instruments have recently made their way onto the Disney Channel movie Rise and continue to be displayed in Disneyland's “Magic Happens” Parade in the USA.