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Drum (communication)

From Academic Kids

For other kinds of drums, see drum (disambiguation).

Often invented and used by cultures living in forested areas, drums served as an early form of long distance communication, as well as during ceremonial and religious functions. Popular movies often portray natives pounding on hollow logs, however most drums are carved from hardwoods into carefully tuned resonators, and often richly decorated as totemic animals.

There are different communication drum types, although they are all commonly known in Central Africa as "talking drums" or "message drums" and are capable of producing different tones as well as rhythms. They are used in regions which possess tonal languages, and the tone and beat of the drum message mimics that of actual speech. However, because this does not uniquely specify particular words, the words are combined into stereotyped phrases which unambiguously communicate a particular meaning. Because of this, a drum message is usually considerably longer than the spoken equivalent.

Under ideal conditions, the sound can be understood at 8 km (5 miles), but interesting messages usually get relayed on by the next village. "The talking drums" or "jungle drums" is also a euphemism for gossip - similar to "the grape vine"


Contents

Log Drums

The oldest drums were made out of hollowed logs. The bigger the log, the louder sound would be made and thus the farther it could be heard. A long slit would be cut in one side of the tree trunk. Next, the log would be hollowed out through the slit, leaving lips (wooden ledges) on each side of the opening. A drum could be tuned to produce a lower note and a higher note. For that it would need to be hollowed out more under one lip than under the other.

The drum's lips are hit with sticks, beating out rhythms of high and low notes.

The message-sending logs are not drums at all from the technical point of view, since they do not have a skin or membrane that would vibrate as they are beaten. Instead, the entire log vibrates like a big cylindrical gong, so musicologists call this type of instrument a slit gong.

Modern Drums

Some cultures improved the log drums with animal skins and hides which were were stretched over the end of a log, thus creating a device bearing more resemblance to the modern drum. The drum often has a narrow neck between the drum heads, across which stretch the sinews holding the skins; the drum will be held under one arm, which is squeezed down on the sinews to vary the tension in the drumheads and therefore the pitch of the sound. In this way several tone registers, as well as contour tones, can be replicated.

Among the most famous talking drums are the drums of West Africa, where they were invented. From regions known today as Nigeria and Ghana they spread across Africa and to America and the Caribbean during the slave trade. At that time they were banned because they were being used by the slaves to communicate over long distances in a code unknown to the slave traders and masters.

Talking drums are also known as: gan gan, dun dun, atumpan, dondo, and lunar.

In the 20th century the talking drums have become a part of popular music in West Africa, especially in the music genre of juju.

Drum code

See also

External links

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