Drums Used In African Music, 7 Examples Worth Knowing

African music and musical instruments are profoundly woven into the texture of life in Africa, and drums are the early-stage instrument. Drumming is perhaps the most seasoned type of music, permitting you to make a drum out of any surface you can hit with your hand or with another item.

In world music and western culture, in particular, drumming is an important part of having fun and merriment.

Drums used in African music are of significant importance in African culture. They are used to announce political and social meetings, burials, and marriage, they are likewise used for strict rituals and customs, calling up familial spirits and so on. They signify royalty and are frequently housed in consecrated omes. They are also ever-present during gladiator-like fights.

The universe of drums and percussions is so wide, and it’s such a captivating ground for more mining-blowing research and exploration. This article portrays different kinds of drums accustomed to Africa, however, it is anything but a comprehensive rundown, as that will prompt an extremely long review.

I found this book on learning how to teach and play African drums very helpful. This article, however, is a description of the drums often used in Africa and should help you grow your knowledge of drumming. So what are African drums call and why are drums so important in many African cultures?

Let’s do a quick rundown of drums used in African music.

  • Sabar
  • Djembe Drum
  • Bougarabou
  • Talking Drum
  • Bata
  • Udu
  • Ashiko


The sabar is a native drum from Senegal that is also played in the Gambia and Guinea. It is commonly played with one hand and one stick. The sabar drum has been utilized to convey messages between villages that are very far apart from each other. The rhythms can mimic spoken expressions which can be heard for more than 10 kilometres.

Sabar drums

One thing that makes sabra interesting to African drumming is that it is played with both hands and sticks. The player holds a long, slim stick (Galan) in one hand for delivering the high note and furthermore hits the skin with the unfilled hand. The shell is an extended chamber with tightened closes.

The goatskin head is connected by hanging it to the pegs that are joined to the body, or by appending it to the pegs directly. Tuning is cultivated by driving the pegs further into the body, which pulls on the skin.

Djembe Drum (Pronounced As Jem-Bay)

The Djembe is a famous hand drum from West Africa – Burkina Faso. It might be rope-tuned or precisely tuned. It is a wine glass or we can say chalice-carved African hand drum. It is carved by hand into various sizes between 20cm in width and 60cm in terms of height.

The Djembe is similar to percussion instruments and belongs to a group known as membranophones, due to the fact that it comprises shells secured by a film of rawhide, normally gotten from the skin of animals. From a cultural point of view, the djembe is seen as a huge part of African art and an African symbol imbued with legend, which is likely founded on genuine historical events or precedence.

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The past events of Africans have not been reported recorded as a hard copy until recently, therefore quite a bit of what we hear and read about the African’way of drumming is been passed down inform of oral conventions. To play it like a typical djembe player, you have to hit it with your hands and, you are most definitely going to get three different types of beats or sound. These are the bass, the tone, and the slap best or sound.

The bass is that profound resonating beat that makes your heart pound alongside it. You strike the drum hard and let the vibration go a bit. Next, we have the tone, which is a strong yet brief strike of the drum. It is the sound you hear when you thump on a bit of wood and the, At last, we have the slap, which is exactly what it seems like.

Here you give the drum a very fast strike with your hands open and then you relax a bit so the sound doesn’t vibrate for too long.


The Bougarabou has more history than the djembe. It is made of cow skin so it is in general, bigger, more profound, and has moa re vibrant sound than the djembe. This is particularly true if the hair isn’t shaved off the skin, as the custom says. The Bougarabou is an extraordinary instrument.


Bougarabou drums

It comes in sets of particularly tuned drums, so it is a situation where one drummer takes control and plays the set of drums. Note that this was not generally the situation; the Bougarabou was played as a solitary drum. They are ordinarily played with just the hands in a standing position.

The drummer wears a progression of metal armbands that add to the sound that the Bougarabou makes. It has a full, profound, rich sound which can be heard for a significant distance and is powerful at all unique levels.

The Talking Drum

The talking drum is one of the more popular drums used in African music. It is a drum-shaped like an hourglass and originates from West African society. Its birthplace can be tracked down to the old Oyo kingdom southwest Nigeria. It helps villages that are far apart to communicate with one another.

The Talking Drum

It is played with a striker and bare hands. The talking drum has two heads that are joined to one another by leather thongs. The drummer can change the pitch of the drum by pressing the line between the arm and body. By directing the strain of these thongs, the pitch can be controlled in order to imitate the musicality and stress of human speech.

Different adaptations of this drum can be found in Africa. The diverse playing styles mirror the distinctions in development, just as the distinctions In different dialects. For instance, It holds an uncommon spot in the history of the Yoruba, and its utilisation in Yoruba fables can’t be overemphasised.


Bata is another significant drum found in west Africa among the Yoruba tribe. It has two heads and, it is formed like an hourglass with one side bigger than the other. A set of data’s made up of three drums of various sizes. The first is known as the ‘Iya’ (Mother).

It is the biggest drum and leads the other two smaller drums. It plays numerous complicated drum notes with numerous varieties and starts conversations with the remaining drums. The average measured drum is the ‘Itotele‘. It plays long yet less complicated patterns with certain varieties, while occasionally starting and responding to conversations.

bata drums

The ‘Okonkolo‘ is the smallest of the three. It is played in short straightforward spurts with occasional dialogue intertwined. The Bata was utilised in strict compliance with cultural rituals, celebrations, and crowning ceremonies. It was used by people to pass on messages of expectation, divination, peace, and war.

Udu (Meaning Pottery Or Vessel)

In the same way as other African hand drums, the Udu has a rich social history. Beginning as a water pot, it ended up having an additional opening by the side. It originates from the eastern part of Nigeria.

udu drums

The Udu is known as both an aerophone and an idiophone. The instrument is played by hitting either hole with an open palm, strIking the body, or hitting it with the fingers or a part of the hand.

The opening can be closed with the palm or stomach for different sound effects.


This is a significant instrument found in West Africa. The Ashiko is a tightened round and hollow moulded drum with its head on the wide end and its rear end open.

ashiko drums

It is generally made with hardwood and goatskin .it is played with the hands and adjusted with ropes. They are mostly played during celebrations and festivities.

Final Thoughts on Drums Used in African Music

Why drums are used in African drumming is a question that goes way beyond this article as the history of African drums is endless discussion. There are still so many interesting areas to explore with respect to craftsmanship and culture. Drumming particularly is a fundamental piece of Africa’s way of life and legacy.

It is the heart and soul of Africa!

Last update on 2021-12-06 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API