Drums are members of the percussion group of musical instruments. They consist of a drum-head which is stretched over a shell or a hollow object, and are either played with the player’s hands or with drumsticks as the case may be. In many cultures, drums have significant functions and comprise of a large array of varieties. They are used in many festivals, carnivals and ceremonies and have even influenced the style or kind of music we listen to in the Yoruba land. Drums are differentiated by the sound they make, how they are constructed, their history and appearance. The Yoruba people have specific drums they use in different carnivals and ceremonies, these are some of the most important ones;
Legend says that “Ayangalu” is the first Yoruba drummer; he’s also believed to be the spirit that inspires drummers. The word “Ayan” means drummer. Due to the emergence of slave trade in West Africa, some of these drums could be found in faraway countries like Brazil, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and the United States.
Gangan/ Dundun (Talking Drum)
Talking drums hold a special place in the tradition of the Yoruba people, its use in Yoruba folklore cannot be overemphasized. They are used to imitate different tone and chant patterns of the Yoruba language. It’s an hourglass shaped drum with two drum-heads connected by leather tension cords that allow the player to change the pitch of the drums. They are frequently used in modern churches, festivals, wedding ceremonies and carnivals.
Another important musical instrument among the Yoruba people, Ashiko is a tapered cylindrical shaped drum with its head on the wide end and its narrow end open. It’s usually made with hardwood and goatskin hide, played with the hands and tuned by ropes. They are mostly used in festivals and community celebrations.
Also known as the “Sakara” drum, the “Omele” as it’s fondly called, is a shallow drum with a circular body made with baked clay. Goat skin is used in making the heads of the drum while spaced pegs around its body are used for tuning. They are used during wedding ceremonies, traditional coronations and festivals.
Another important drum used by the Yoruba people is the Bata, a double-headed drum shaped like an hourglass with one cone larger than the other. It’s used majorly in religious functions, festivals, carnivals and coronations. It’s also used to convey messages of hope, divination, praise and war. The Bata drum has different parts which include; “Igi Ilu” (wooden frame work), leather, “Egi ilu” (thick brooms for support), “Osan” (wire work), “Iro” (black substance placed on the drum surface), “Bulala” (drumstick made from leather), and cowries.
Trivia: The most frequently stated primary purpose of Bata is for the glorification of Sango; the Yoruba god of thunder and lightning.
Gbedu literally means “a big drum”. The drum is used during important occasions, “Ogboni” ceremonies and coronation exercises. It’s covered in carvings representing an image of a goddess, animals and birds. They are played by drummers using both their palms and drumsticks. It signifies royalty in the Yoruba land. In ceremonies such as the “Isagun rites”, the Oba might dance to the music from the drum and no one else is allowed to do the same.
Unless the he-goat dies, no one can make a gbedu drum from its skin
Saworoide also known as “Saworo” is a type of talking drum decorated with brass bells and chimes. Such bells are attached to leather straps for support. They are called “Chaworoide” and “Chaworo” in Cuba.