Culture diaspora Music

African drums popular in TT

The following article was written by Seeta Persad and published in Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday, Wednesday, August 1 2012.

The Kwadum, Apentemma, Aburukuwa I, Aburukuwa II drums. …

It is common to hear African drumming at formal functions and other shows in Trinidad and Tobago.

Some of the drums that were brought to the islands from Africa include the Aburukuwa which is an open drum of the Akan people and the Asante people of Ghana. It is bottle shaped and its skin is held on by pegs. It is usually played with curved sticks. Its sound resembles the song of a bird of the same name. The Aburukuwa is the smallest of the three drums used by the Asante people during rituals and ceremonies. The Aburukuwa and its sister drums, the Kwadum and the Apentemma, were typically covered by red and black cloth to represent death and blood. Although the drums have become associated with funerals and ancestor worship, they were also used during wartime.

Carimbo is a tall African drum made of a hollow trunk of wood, thinned by fire, and covered with a deerskin. It is about 1m tall and 30cm wide. There is also the Carimbo dance which remains a loose and very sensual dance which involved only side to side movements and many spins and hip movements by the female dancer, who typically wore a rounded skirt. The music was mainly to the beat of Carimbó drums. In this dance, a woman would throw her handkerchief on the floor and her male partner would attempt to retrieve it using solely his mouth. Over time, the dance changed, as did the music itself. It was influenced by the Caribbean (for example, Zouk, kompa, and Merengue styles) and French/Spanish dance styles of the Caribbean.

Research shows that the Sakara drum is one of the four major families of Yoruba drums of Nigeria. The other families are the Dundun/Gangan or talking drum, the Batá drum and the Gbedu drum. Each family includes drums of different sizes, with the mother drum (iya ilu) playing the lead role and other drums playing in support. Interestingly the Sakara is a shallow drum with a circular body made with baked clay. The clay shell is perhaps ten inches in diameter and one and a half inches deep, sloping inward funnel-wise towards the back. The skin is secured to the shell with twine and tuned using pegs spaced around its body. The men use goat skin to make the heads of these drums. The fingers of one hand change the tone of the drum, while the drummer hits the face of the drum with a stick. When several sakara drums are played together, the “iya ilu” is the main voice, and dictates the pace and rhythmic style. The fixed pitch omele ako and omele abo drums talk rhythmically, and the smaller and higher-toned omele “chord” drum adds flavour by playing varied pitches.

The Yorubu have traditionally used Sakara drums for a variety of purposes. They are played during Yoruba wedding ceremonies. A king could use them to summon people to court. They were also used to announce visitors to the king, to broadcast messages, and to speak prayers and to play “orikis.”

Kpanlogo drums are a part of the membranophone family of musical instruments; a shell covered by a drumhead made of one of many products, usually rawhide. The drum has a tapered body carved from a single piece of wood that is similar in shape to a conga. The drumhead is typically made from goat, antelope, or cow skin that is stretched over one end of the drum and is tightened through the use of six wooden pegs. The skin can be tightened by tapping the pegs into the drum. Kpanlogo may be played with sticks, bare hands, or a combination of the two. Kpanlogo are traditionally played by an ensemble of drummers, often in sets of six kpanlogo drums of varied size. Djembe, dunun, and cowbell usually accompany the kpanlogo.

For the original article: African Drums popular in TT

By Ken Archer

I am an ethnomusicologist, who obtained my doctoral degree at the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. My areas of interests include the musical, ritual, and celebratory traditions of the circum-Caribbean and the African Diaspora.

I worked as a lecturer at the Columbus and Marion Campuses of the Ohio State University, where I taught classes in World Music, Rock and Roll/American Popular Music, Western Art Music, and directed the OSU Steel Pan ensemble.