Thursday, March 13, 2008

Squeeze the drum while you beat it: the drum talks!

Habib Koité & Bamada
Originally uploaded by el*bandido
The talking drum is a West African drum whose pitch can be regulated to the extent that it is said the drum "talks". The player puts the drum under one shoulder and beats the instrument with a stick.

A talking drum player raises or lowers the pitch by squeezing or releasing the drum's strings with the upper arm. This can produce highly informative sounds to convey complicated messages. The ability to change the drum's pitch is analogous to the language tonality of some African languages.

Talking drums are one of the oldest instruments used by West African griots (storyteller / historians) and their history can be traced back to ancient Ghana Empire. The Hausa people, and by influence, the Yoruba people of south western Nigeria and Benin and the Dagomba of northern Ghana, have developed a highly sophisticated genre of griot music centering on the talking drum.

Among the Wolof people of Senegal, the talking drum (known as a tama) is an hour-glass shaped drum with two heads (goat, lizard (iguana), or fish skin) tuned by straps that connect the heads with each other.

A proverb associated with the drum: "Even if you dress up finely, love is the only thing."

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