A talking drum is an African instrument known for its hourglass shape. Originating from West Africa, the talking drum is an instrument that can mimic the tone, rhythm, intonation, and stress of human speech. It is called in different names, including Dondo, Tamanin, Lunna, and Dundun, among others. A lot of musicians use the talking drum even today. To know more about the instrument, here are some more information about its history and characteristics.

A Peek at its Origin
The talking drum is one of the oldest instruments in West Africa. Griots have been using the instrument since the Ghana Empire, with the Hausa people creating a particular Griot music genre based on the sounds it can produce. Back in the year, the talking drum is used during different traditional activities and rituals such as religious rites, royal occasions and even circumcisions.

A talking drum has a head on both ends. The drummer has to beat the head with a stick in order to create a sound. The tone of the drum can also be adjusted by tightening the strings attached to the instrument. Most tribes adjust the tone in order to convey a message, as the talking drum is also used as a means of communication. The instrument comes in various sizes. The Tama of the Wolof, Mandinka, and Serer have a smaller dimension, while the Lunna and Dundun used by the Yoruba and Dagomba peoples are the largest in dimension. In terms of using the drum as a way to communicate, people used to find it easier and faster to send messages to another village via the drum than personally delivering it.

Different Drum Styles
Africans play the talking drum in different ways and fashion. The difference in playing styles lies in the instrument’s tonal qualities and structure. For instance, the talking drum music in areas in Gambia, Senegal, Guinea and Mali are distinguished by its short and sudden bursts of sounds and rapid rolls. In Mali, Ghana, and Burkina Faso, on the other hand, the sound earns a distinction from long and sustained notes. With different styles and the instrument’s popularity, many artists use talking drums in popular music. Among the personalities known for using the instrument include King Crimson, Tom Waits, Sikiru Adepoju, Nana Vasconcelos, and Erykah Badu.

The talking drum is just one of the instruments that give life to African music. Learning about its qualities and characteristics can help you determine how to make use of the instrument to create the kind of music you want.



By Titus Kitivie


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