Posted on October 14, 2011
The name Udu stems from Nigerian Igbo language, meaning “pot” or “vessel.” The clay jugs were traditionally used to carry water, however when a second side-hole was accidentally created (likely by falling impact) the Udu’s musical implications were discovered. By quickly hitting the side hole with the palm of the hand and closing the top hole in varying degrees with the other hand, soothing yet subtly eerie tones can be achieved. The ethereal sounds were even thought to be voices of ancestors passed. Since water-carrying duties were primarily fulfilled by the women of the Igbo tribe, the Udu drum possesses a special feminine history and was used for women’s ceremonial purposes.
Various playing methods for the Udu including striking with the fingers, palm, and even putting water inside of the jug, display the wide assortment of deep, liquid-like bass tones it’s capable of. Due to this unique versatility in sound, Udu drums can be used in a variety of musical styles and genres today. Probably the most popular modern song employing theUdu would be Sting’s Desert Rose.
The spherical shape is made out of a porous clay or stoneware. Traditionally the process was done by women completely by hand and they fired the pottery in a simple firing pit. Great care had to be taken to avoid air bubbles, as that would lead to breaking during the firing process. Modern-day udus are typically made of stoneware with various pottery tools, and then fired in a kiln.
Here at Mother Rhythm, we have a variety of modern stoneware Udus available for purchase, including those made by LP and our own in-house line. You can view our Udu selection at the following link: