From the drum circle to the studio, the prevalence of hand drums like the Djembe, bongos or cajon continues to grow and bring a sense of personal connection to music, rhythm and cultures across the world. As more drummers seek different sounds, the inclusion of drums that once seemed exotic has been a strong factor in the music world, especially World Music.
The Djembe may be the most well-known hand percussion instrument, but for musicians seeking a different, but complimentary sound for Djembes in drum circles or performances, the Ashiko drum is a wise choice.
Ashiko drums and Djembe drums share a history and culture. Both drums come from Western Africa, and are part of the many traditions, celebrations and customs of the vast and varied Yoruba tribe. An Ashiko drum may be considered the “male” version of the Djembe drum, with each instrument complimenting the tone of the other, but its roots in matriarchal Nigerian culture speak otherwise. The difference between the drums can be attributed to the variances in the locations of tribal members and the various customs surrounding any of the different locales. Originally, the Ashiko drum was carved from a single log and used for tribal communication or celebration within the tribe. It is classified as a “talking drum,” due to the ropes that secure the goat skin head to the frame of the drum and allow the drum’s pitch to bend, mimicking tribal speech patterns. The modern Ashiko drum is not carved, but is the result of several staves of wood glued together, resulting in strong and durable instrument that can withstand the rigors of weather, travel and other drum-damaging handling.
Today, the Ashiko drum is used in a variety of settings and music genres. Most notably prominent in World Music, the Ashiko, known as the botu drum in Latin cultures, is also an important part of the festivals and celebrations of Cuba.