Why Drumming Is Important In African Traditions


Drumming is one of the most important members of the musical instruments. Without drumming, music can never be complete. Drums are either played with the beating of the hands, or with the use of sticks, it all depends on the type of drum that is been played. Drums always bring entertainment when they are played, and drumming is one of the compulsory instruments that is played during any celebration or party.

But there is more to drumming that just playing it for the purpose of entertainment. Drums are very symbolic in different African traditions. There’s a meaning behind drumming in African traditions. Drums are the major promoters of the African culture and heritage.

The purpose of a drum depends on the place and event that it is being played. Below are some popular African drums and their symbolism.


1) Karyenda

This drum originated from Burundi; it is one of the major symbols in the country. The Karyenda also represents the King of Burundi. They believe that the King can interpret the beatings of these drums and convert them into rules in his kingdom. This drum is very sacred, and it is only played at major and notable events such as the coronation of a king.

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This drum is also used at weddings and funerals. They are also played when the king wakes up in the morning, and when he goes back to bed in the evening. Drum sanctuaries are built, where these drums are kept. The task of manufacturing the Karyenda is given to the Hutu families, who also play and keep these drums, bring them for occasions and take them back after an occasion.


2) Djembe Or Talking Drum

This drum has been around for a very long time. The talking drum goes way back to 500 A.D where it was used as a secret drum in major events in many societies. This drum is used for ancestral worships, social dances, ritual and rite passages. This drum is mainly used in Mali.

The Djembe is believed to have three spirits inside it. The first spirit of the Djembe is the spirit of the tree from which the Djembe is made. Another spirit of the Djembe, is the spirit of the animal skin that is being played, and the last spirit are the spirits of the carve and the people that assemble the drum together. It is the tradition that only people born into the Djembe family and play this drum, sing, and drum during rituals. They play the music of their ancestors.

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3) Entenga

This drum is part of the royal instruments that can be found in Uganda. Musisi, the last surviving drummer that played in the palace, said that the King really loved the drumming so much that he instructed them to play the drums every 3am in the morning.

The King loved the drums so much and felt that 3.am was the only time that was quiet enough for the drumming of the Entenga to be appreciated. The drum is also played in the performing of rituals like chasing away evil spirits, droughts and during prayers.


4) Ngoma

This drum can also be called engoma, ingoma, ng’oma. It is popular in the Bantu populations of Africa. The named of this drum was gotten from the Kongo word for “drum”. They are mainly used by the South Africans during ceremonies. The aim of playing this drum is to aid healing. Dancing to this drum can reduce stress. The drumming of the Ngoma is meant to promote the unity of tribes, help in life transitions and good health. This drum is mainly used in Zimbabwe for celebrations and traditional dances.

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5) Gbedu

The meaning of Gbedu is “Big Drum”. This drum is mainly used by the Yoruba and Benin people of Nigeria. This drum is mainly used during the ceremony of the Ogboni and state occasions. The Ogboni is an ancient secret society of the Yorubas. The Gbedu, which is also known as Ogido, belongs to the four families of Yoruba drums.

Other members of the family are Dundun/Gangan (talking drum), the Sakara drum, and the Bata drum. Each family of these drums has different drum sizes, with a major mother drum that plays the lead while others follow. In the culture of the Yorubas, the Gbedu signifies royalty. It is played in ceremonies where the Oba might decide to dance. If this drum is used by someone else, the person would be arrested.


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