Listen to the enchanting sounds of the Agogo Bells at the Dragon Maker Booth on Strawberry Lane at Oregon Country Fair. These custom Brazilian Samba instruments are great fun! It’s easy to sound fancy even if you aren’t a musician. Find out about the long family history of this booth and the handmade bells. Enjoy the parade going by as well!
The Dragon Maker Booth at OCF
Transcription by Jade Rainsong
(Karen) it’s Friday at Oregon Country Fair 2019. We are on the Strawberry Lane. We just crossed over the bridge, wandering in the cool shade. It’s actually great weather this year. We’re excited to be here and there’s a booth here, the dragon maker, as well as Fiona McAuliffe. So a couple of different artists sharing a booth.
And, uh, they’ve got some interesting sounds coming from this booth. We’re going to go check it out. I’ll talk to him and see what they’re doing in here.
That is beautiful. What a great sound. Look at these beautiful instruments there.
It looks like you’re beating some kind of interesting tubes made of wood with ribs on ’em and like a metal handle with another stick.
(Jherek) Indeed. This is actually a variation of a variation of a variation of an, agogo bell. It’s the Brazilian Samba instrument, which is normally two bells put together. You’ve got a high one and a low one. Click them together to a counterpoint, makes it much faster. Now, many years ago, we added a Paducah block to the cow bells… You get a percussion block in there. And a couple of years ago, I invented this, which is an agogo blocks with no bell at all. These are fun because you don’t have to be a percussionist to sound fancy. I play these once a year. I’m not a percussionist. I’m not a drummer. I can teach anybody to do everything I do within 10 minutes and they can go out and sound like a hot shot without having to put any experience points into it.
(Karen) Fantastic. And it’s lightweight too, just carry it in one hand.
(Jherek) You put it around your belt and you take that leather and you click it in and you can literally detach it and put it back on it. Forget about it. It’s great. These are wonderfully portable.
(Karen) I love them. They’re really awesome. How long have you been here selling these at Fair?
(Jherek) Well, my father was the dragon maker here at the booth. For about 27 years, this would be my fifth year after taking over. So I’ve been here for about 30 years.
(Karen) Oh, wow. That’s great. And, and be in the 50 year anniversary, but you’ve, uh, you’ve seen some interesting things in here so long and.
(Jherek) I’ve got a lot of stories and some of them, I can even tell.
(Karen) I love the different colors of the sticks here. You’ve got ones that are purple-ish and really deep, burgundy red, and started blonde wood colored ones.
(Jherek) Different woods have a lot of different sound characteristics to them. You’ll find all my wooden blocks are Paducah wood, which is. The same, a what they use for marimba keys. It’s very live.
(Karen) Where does that come from?
(Jherek) That would be the red. I’m not sure of the origin of Paducah. I believe it’s a rainforest wood, but I’m not positive of that. I made these clubs out of Paduc, which makes for a very loud, bright. Clear sound. And I also went ahead and made some, a purple heart as well, closed grain wood. This is very loud and very lie…
(Karen) Two sticks, and just beat them together and your hand
(Jherek) Hard maple, which is actually a much lower, quieter kind of background, not so piercing for people that are a little less confident and don’t want to rise up over the crowd. You have, you know, the.
(Karen) Almost reminds me of a cricket chirping or something kind of a loud one.
(Jherek) That kind of reminds me as well. And at the higher pitched ones, that’s very cricket.
(Karen) Like an insect. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Excellent. We’ve got some shoppers here, checking it out, hitting the different bells. What do you think? Do you like these?
(shopper) Yeah. Yeah. It’s really interesting.
(Karen) They’re pretty neat. I love the sound. What’s your name?
(Jherek) My name is Jherek. It’s like Eric with “jh”.
(Karen) And I love your beautiful dragon wings. Yeah. You’ve got some nice horns on.
(Jherek) This is the dragon maker. And ordinarily for years, we had small dragons, sculptures metal dragons sculptures. I haven’t had the time to make and re up all of the blacksmith and the sculptural stuff. And I keep doing the mass produced bells thing, but, uh, we’re going to be moving back into the sculptural in the coming years.
(Karen) You designed some of these, some new instruments yourself, it sounds like.
(Jherek) Yeah. My father came up with the first four or five generations of agogo bells. They actually started as a clam shell with two pieces where the, uh, the bell itself is made out of two pieces that are clamshell together. This is one of the very first ones right here. This is my personal unit that I carry around. Um, and it went and it went through all the different variations and ended up with three pieces per bell, which just makes it so that the vibration travels the same distance, both directions, no matter where you hit it, you get the same exact tone all the way around. So that was my dad’s invention. Was the hexagonal a go go bell. Then he took it a step further and part, it started putting the blocks on them. Uh, we’ve been doing these for about 15 or 16 years here at the Fair with the bell block. My personal twist on it was the agogo blocks, the block block with no bell where I just kind of took it and ran.
(Karen) And how much are these like a typical set?
(Jherek) They range from about 35 to 50 bucks. The, I do four sizes of bells, a size one, which is cute, little cute little fairy bells, all the way to number fours, which are for the Samba professional percussionist. But those are fun because you get the whole mute thing.
(Karen) You’re pushing it against your thigh, there to kind of mute the opening of the bell as you do it. Thank you for the interview today.
(Jherek) Thank you.
(Karen) Thank you so much.