When you think of Africa, the first things that come to mind are the African tribes and their various drums. The comprehensive range of African drums available is truly mind boggling and they are an integral part of most African cultures. African drums are part of all major occasions in Africa from wedding to funeral to religious functions. Every African drum is different from the other and no two drum sound similar. They each have their own significance in the lives of the African people. Most of these drums have been in vogue for more than hundreds or thousands of years and have traveled across the globe and been adopted by many countries as part of their musical ensemble. But for the Africans it is not only a medium of entertainment but has a deep religious and sentimental history behind it.
Drums in African culture have a deeper and sacred significance much beyond the revolutionary and religious practices for which they are normally used. Drums are considered to be a divine instrument bestowed on them by the Supreme Being. The Africans believe that drum represents the creation of life from nothingness and chaos and the establishment of an order in the world. This is the reason drums are greatly revered in Africa and is not just an instrument of entertainment. There are several types of drums that are used for different occasions, the ones used for festivities being more decorative than the others. These are considered sacred and revered by the people of Africa. Though drumming is essentially considered to be a male bastion, women also have their own versions of drums that they play in all-woman circles.
Most of the music of Africa has its influence from the Islamic and European styles due to the invasion of these people in Africa for centuries. The rulers often took the best drummers to play in their courts and entertain the royalty. The drummers had to learn the new style of drumming that would appeal to these audiences and the whole technique of drumming changed. But the most revered drummers are still the ones who played the traditional form of drumming as the Africans believed that even God was dumb until the drum spoke. The one thing common to drumming in the whole of Africa is the time of drumming which is usually only played at night. Daytime drumming usually happens only on days of rest or in case of mourning which may last upto three months also.
Bata Drums: Famous African drums used by the Yoruba people of Nigeria. The bata drums essentially are made up of a combination of three or five drums, all of different sizes. These can be played either with a stick or with one's hand. The two ends of the drums are not of the same size with one end having a large head and the other end having a smaller head with the neck tapering down. The Yoruba people consider the deity Ana to be residing within these drums. The bata drums are also an integral part of Cuban culture. Though the bata drums are African in origin they were introduced to the Cuban people by the African slaves who brought these drums to Cuba as part of their religious practices. Since then these drums have been part of Cuban music, including the Cuban jazz and timba.
Bougarabou: Another African drum is the bougarabou. With its origin in Western Africa, this drum is still predominantly found in this part of Africa. Traditionally a single drum played with one hand or a stick, recent times have seen players using different sizes of bougarabou drums for increased percussion effect. The bougarabou drum is made of cow hide and is shaped like an hourglass. The bougarabou player also wears jangling bracelets to add another layer of percussion effect to their music.
Ashiko: Ashiko drums of Africa are largely used in the western world .The Ashiko drums are large in size with a cone-like shape and are covered with cow hide like the bougarabou drums. These drums are played by hand by keeping them in a upright position or by placing them on the side with the players straddling them.
Djembe: Djembe is the also the most popular African drum known to the western world. Having appeared in the 13th century in Mali in Western Africa, this drum is shaped like a goblet and is played with hands. It is covered with goat skin and the people of Mali use them for both religious and social functions.
Talking Drums: The most interesting and famous variety of drums are the talking drums of Africa. Any drum whose pitch can be modulated to sound like words in the local language can be termed as a talking drum. While the bata is also called a talking drum, this term can be applied to any of the African drums. Talking drums come in different shapes, with only the hourglass shape and two leather-covered heads being common to all of them. The pitch of the drums is adjusted through the strings which are usually played with a stick.