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Talking Drums

Historically, drumming served as a means of communication for tribes in Africa. Because of the distance involved between these communities, the ability to verbally communicate was limited and drums were used to convey location, welcome traveling tribes and even warn when warring tribes were approaching. Drums were also used during celebrations and festivals to mark the passing of seasons or other special events within the tribes.

In West Africa, the Yoruba population developed “talking drums” for festivals, celebrations, and as a way to carry “verbal” messages between tribes. Since African dialects rely on intonation to distinguish the meaning behind words, Talking Drums were able to mimic a conversation between people, quickly relaying messages and information between tribes. These drums were also used to enhance the legends told by tribal storytellers, and within these tribes, those that mastered the Talking Drums were held in high esteem.

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Meinl African Talking Drum X8 African Talking Drum Toca Talking Drum with Beater, African Mask Hudak Deluxe Talking Drum 8x16 (w BEAL)
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Meinl African Talking Drum X8 African Talking Drum Toca African Mask Talking Drum Hudak Deluxe Talking Drum
Talking Drum, Embossed Nickeled Brass Tycoon Percussion Talking Drum Meinl Talking Drum
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Talking Drum, Embossed Nickeled Brass Tycoon Percussion Talking Drum Meinl Talking Drum
   
 

Talking Drums are hourglass-shaped, two-headed drums attached by the heads with rope, cord or sinew. Played with a curved rod that strikes the head of the drum, the pitch of the drum is modulated when the drummer squeezes and releases these strings and ropes. This pressure and tension variation is what produces the “talking” or “singing” sound from these drums, which is then used to mimic conversational tones and inflections.

Today, these sounds are less about communication and more about including new and distinctive sounds in contemporary music. While Talking Drums maintain their prevalence in West African tribes and communities, they can also be found in recordings and performances from some of the top artists of today.

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