Originating from and primarily used in West Africa, talking drums were historically used to send messages over long distances. They were some of oldest instruments used by griots, and also used in religious rituals and royal occasions. They continue to be used today in popular music.
Listen to an ensemble of talking drums here.
Talking drums are known by many different names - almost as many as there are languages in the region - such as dundun, lunna , tamanin, and dondo. They come in different sizes and have two drum heads and an hourglass shape with leather strings attached from one end to the other. Because of the tension in the strings, they can be manipulated to make different sounds. The drums are typically tucked under the arm and squeezed when struck to change the sounds. A curved stick is used in order to strike the center of the drum (this protects the edge, which would break) and allows the drummer to hit the drum with lots of force. These sounds are made to mimic the tones, rhythm and pitch of regional languages. By mimicking speech, messages can be conveyed from one village to the next.
Hear a talking drum being used with a demonstration of its many tones here.
Getting messages to outlying areas was faster with a drum than by sending someone out. These messages were to inform or warn others of impending war, attacks and ceremonies.
|Talking drums being used during festivities at a cultural festival in Ghana|
Photo Credit: Paul Williams (CC)
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