I am most familiar with the African Rhythm Traders branch, and have seen that whenever a great teacher like Mamady Keita or Famoudou Konate comes through the states, Rhythm Traders is going to be involved. They also sponsor tours to Africa and, by what I see on their Youtube channel, they go to Cuba, as well. These guys have a drummerly vibe, and other drummers give them their best. Check-out the youtube videos and you’ll see what I mean.
Although African Rhythm traders may carry more items at this time, their reputation is built on Mande drums, but especially on their audio, video, instructional material (including books), and dance-related sections. Latin rhythm traders seems to be organized along lines similar to the African section. I have no experience with their drumset site.
Drum Supplies: anybody who has made drums knows how hard it is to get metal rings welded— but these guys sell rings! And skins, and the right kind of ropes (the hardware store ropes are too stretchy, and so are the mountaineering/rapelling ones)
They sell drums that are already fully assembled, too.
Audio: they have an amazing selection of seemingly every West African CD on the planet. Kora & Ngoni enthusiasts, take note, also!!! A great thing about their online catalog is the presence of numerous sound clip samples. The catalogue is subdivided as follows:
1) Djembe Titles
2) Kora & Balaphone Titles
3) Traditional Titles: Senegal, Mali & Guinea
4) Traditional Titles: Ghana & Nigeria
5) Contemporary Gems: West Africa
6) DVD,s Videos, and Books
7) Just For Dancers!
A few of these categories deserve special mention.
Books: their selection of instructional books, cd’s and videos is the reason I started visiting the site. Actually, their site is still my best way to keep informed about what new things are available!
Also they have a whole section called “Just for Dancers,” which is a great way to find all of the available materials under one convenient roof. Probably the hardest thing nowadays is not learning lead drumming or learning dance moves, but understanding the intimate correlation between the two. These resources are very precious and, I think, point toward one direction of future scholarship.