If it's Sunday and you're looking for a bongo to bang on at the Venice beach drum circle to feed your fix of primal release and offbeat bashing (disguised as polyrhythm, of course), Motherland Music is not the place. “The beach is a bad place for djembes. The saltwater really dries out the hide,” explains shop owner Dan Rite. Located on La Cienega in Culver City, this unique drum shop honors drumming traditions, from the west coast of Africa to the west coast of L.A., and the instruments are far from toys. The inventory is as authentic as it gets, including a variety of hand-carved drums — djembes, doundoun, talking drums (tamas), and the Cuban-style batá — all imported from Ghana and Mali. Motherland, however, is much more than a drum store. Tucked behind a thick, colorful curtain of hide and wood is a full-fledged drum laboratory where a team of in-house doctors work hard to diagnose each drum based on specific wood or size. Percussionists from all over the city take their precious instruments to Motherland for a drum check-up, complete with skin replacement (goat, cow, or antelope hide) and tuning. While these guys take their drumming and drums seriously, the Motherland staff sheds all pretension for the love of the music. They offer open African drumming classes seven days a week, taught by professional African drummers for all skill levels. Next time you have the urge to beat your palms to a pulp, skip the beach toys and get serious at Motherland. 921 La Cienega Blvd., Culver City. (310) 838-5008, motherlandmusic.com.

—Max Wrightson

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