A&F Drum Company, known for their distinctive “modern vintage” drums, has recently teamed up with the Sabian cymbal company to produce a line of exciting new products. Ramy Antoun, Founder and President of A&F, describes this partnership as a blend of “old world craftsmanship, new world sound”. Ramy has long held Sabian in great esteem; a company with a proud history, steeped in tradition and renowned for their dedication, innovation and craftsmanship.
The initial meeting of A&F with Sabian was not premeditated. Ramy described the event as “an accidental encounter”. Perhaps it was fate? Ramy and A&F partner Josh Jones were attending an annual industry gathering organized by Shane Kinney (Drum Center of Portsmouth). Josh happened to sit down next to Mark Haines-Lacey of Sabian and invited Ramy to join the conversation. It turns out that Ramy and Mark both liked cigars and so they each lit up a cigar together. They started talking and realized there were many parallels between their experiences and philosophies. Ramy said he was thinking, “Thank God there’s a company that’s decades ahead of us, much bigger than us, but still maintains small business values. I hope that we could do that.” It was clear to Ramy and Mark that they had to do something together.
As a result, the A&F team (Ramy Antoun with director, David Hall) traveled to Meductic, Canada to visit the Sabian headquarters and document their experience. There they met key members of the Sabian team: Mark Love (Director, R&D), Mark Haines-Lacey (Director, Sales), Stacey Montgomery-Clark (SVP, Sales & Marketing), Luis Cardoso (Marketing Manager) and Andy Zildjian (President, CEO). They spent 4 days filming and capturing interviews with various Sabian staff. Ramy shared that, “I was fortunate to sneak away with Mark Love for about 3 hours. We just geeked out. It was an instant musical, innovative, instrument-crazy connection. In that time, we came up with our first instrument! It’s that kind of chemistry between our companies that makes it work.” Ramy released a wonderful short video describing why he views Sabian with such high regard and a teaser of things to come:
In the video, Ramy says, “You look at Sabian and you think – massive corporation…lots of machines doing things that people used to do. That’s the perception of just big business; a huge global cymbal company. But I don’t know that everyone really understands that this company is making things by hand….You can’t get here (at Sabian) and go through learning the story about a company and seeing all the parallels, and the direction, and the destination where you want to be as a company. You can’t do all these things and not be inspired to create something together.” Andy Zildjian, President of Sabian, described their shared passion, saying to Ramy, “Quite simply, because A&F, you, your family, the way that you treat people, the craftsmanship that you put into it, the philosophy that this is a living instrument…we are not just producing a product, we’re making a voice for the artist, the people. That not only is the philosophy that we started with, but all these 37 years later, it’s still the philosophy that we live by…. It’s really encouraging to see a company to grow up and come along in the same way that we did. Because we’re still a family business as well, nice and small. But at the same time, global…We want to do things by hand. We don’t want to automate. We don’t want to just scale up and produce products. That’s not how you make an instrument. You have to make something that has a personality, a life and energy in it.”
Like partners from diverse cultures pre-destined to meet, A&F and Sabian have found each other and given birth to new musical life in the form of an instrument – aptly named “Ankh”, the ancient Egyptian symbol of life. It also represents the unity of the two companies. The first child of these proud parents is the “Ankh” series of innovative hi-hat cymbals: bronze (16”, only as pairs) and brass (14” or 16”, each sold a la carte as medium and thin; so you can mix/match medium and thin should you so choose). The Ankh hi-hats will be in limited production, with only 25 pairs of each released per month. These masterfully hand-hammered cymbals are quite unique both in sound and appearance – the first thing that strikes you is the huge bell. The “Ankh” symbol is stamped on each cymbal (resembling a cross but with a loop at the top).
I was fortunate to experience these Ankh hi-hat cymbals in my home studio. Each pair consisted of one thin and one medium weight cymbal. Note that, while described as thin, these A&F/Sabian cymbals were certainly not flimsy and had substantial bite.
The 14” brass was dark in color/patina with deep hammering. The bell was about 7.5” in diameter! The 16” brass hi-hats had a similar finish with heavy hammering and a dark, mocha patina. The bell on these beauties was closer to 8” in diameter. The last pair was a set of 16” bronze hi-hats, with more gentle hammering and a large, but smooth unhammered bell. In addition, the bow of the cymbal was nicely lathed to reveal the glimmering bronze shining brightly in contrast to the dark bell.
I first explored putting the thin on top, medium on bottom, and then reversed them to hear medium on top, with the thin on bottom. Perhaps in a more traditional manner, I tried them out with the thin on top and the heavy cymbal (medium) on bottom. To my surprise, I enjoyed both combinations. With the brass 14” and 16”, I preferred the medium on top. With the bronze, I liked the thin on top. I’m at a loss to completely explain this choice rationally. However, these cymbals evoke emotions and perhaps should never be rationalized. The brass cymbals each had a lot of bite and attack. I thought these would be amazing in live situations and cut through the mix nicely. I had great fun experimenting with these large hi-hat bells! Being larger in diameter than traditional hi-hats, each bell had a pleasing low fundamental tone with a very distinctive character. I found the 16” bronze to be a little more subtle and smoother sounding than the brass. The unhammered bell had a clearer tone with longer decay (than the brass), presumably due to the lack of hammering. The bottom line is that these sounded unlike any other cymbal I’ve ever played. All had a great “chick” sound when closed, ensuring that they would be heard even when not hit with a stick. The large bells were a blast. It was a pleasure to have the choice between brass and bronze, thin and medium, 14” and 16”.
Appropriately named, the new Ankh A&F/Sabian hi-hat cymbals have breathed new life into the sound of hi-hat cymbals. They offer endless possibilities to be creative and inspire your music. While playing them, I found myself exploring new patterns and loved experimenting with the bell. Each person can play the same cymbal and hear something different. Perhaps one of these new Ankh hi-hat cymbals will speak to you and breathe new life into your playing.
Stay tuned; this is only the beginning. There are more exciting announcements from A&F/Sabian coming soon!
14” Brass Thin Single Hat...$299.50
14” Brass Med Single Hat...$299.50
16” Brass Thin Single Hat...$349.50
16” Brass Med Single Hat...$349.50
16” Bronze Matched Pair....$699.00
ANKH instruments will exclusively be available through all Sabian and A&F Dealers
The first batch of 75 pairs are already heading to the following shops:
1. Drum Center of Portsmouth in New Hampshire, USA
2. Ikebe Music in Tokyo, JAPAN
3. Timpano Music in Montreal, CANADA
4. Philadelphia Drum Shop in PA, USA
5. Servette Music in Geneva, SWITZERLAND
6. Boston Drum Center, in Massachusetts, USA