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The Talking Drum

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The talking drum is widely considered to be one of the oldest instruments in West Africa and can be traced back to the Ghana Empire. Talking drums were mainly used by West African griots, who still exist today as storytellers preserving the oral tradition and history of their villages and families. Griots were essential to West African societies as they replaced written language, in which few had access to at the time. The talking drum was a tool the griots used to assist in story-telling, communication, and guidance. Whether it was used to relay an important message, as a summoning to a ceremonial dance, or as an aid in telling fables that taught important life-lessons; the talking drum served an important function in West African cultures and had a language specific to each region.

To play the talking drum, the player nestles the drum between the body and the arm and intermittently squeezes it while the player’s other hand strikes the drum head with a mallet. By putting pressure on the ropes that hold the skins in place, the pitch and tightness can be regulated to mimic a “talking” sound.

Talking Drums in Contemporary Music

Today, the talking drum is still used in traditional tribal ceremonies. But like many ancient African drums, it’s now commonly implemented in more contemporary forms of music such as the Fuji genre. Often features alongside Nigerian hip hop music, the Fuji genre blends traditional Nigerian music with a more modern-day dance element. 

Talking Drums for Sale

Talking Drums can now be purchased from a variety of venues. If you’re looking for a traditional version, Freedom Drums makes some excellent quality authentic talking drums from Ghana:

Griot Talking Drum

Griot Rose Talking Drum

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