Types of African drums

By | April 7, 2021


Djembe is a goatskin-covered percussion instrument that is designed as a large goblet that is played to be played with bare hands. Djembe first appeared — at least in history — in the 13th century in the West African Empire in Mali. During this time, griots, a West African hybrid of historians and musicians, used the instruments to produce accompanying music for their stories, which usually concerned the Mali Empire Sundiata’s warriors (1217-1255). Mali residents — Malinke and Susu — used the drum during the celebration of sacred and secular events.

Talking Drum

The talking drum or down is an hourglass-shaped drum with a strap that is traditionally thrown over one shoulder while it is cast under the other and played with a curved doodle. The talking drum was named because of the player’s ability to change its pitch to mimic language tonality or ‘talk’. The Yoruba people, who mainly live in present-day Nigeria, invented the dunun. In ancient times, the talking drum was used for a variety of purposes — from being a musical instrument during the celebration to a kind of telegram to convey messages during wartime or to announce a visitor’s arrival.

Bata Bata is a set of three drums of different sizes played with either a stick or hands. They are characterized by having two heads, with one larger than the other. Another drum of Yoruba origin, the batat drum is considered to be the sacred drum of the deity Ana or Oshun, known as the goddess of love. Bata drums play an important role in Cuba, where African slaves introduced them. They are used in religious events, as well as in Cuba’s music genres.


Bougarabou, originating in Senegal and Gambia, is played as a single drum. It has a tapered cylindrical shape with a head and is traditionally played as a single drum. The player sometimes wears jungle bracelets to give performance a richer percussion.


Ngoma is used throughout Central, Eastern and South Africa, with its origins being among the Buganda people of Uganda. It is played in a group, usually with three drums to produce different notes from deep bass to sharp sounds. As the most important musical instrument in Africa, the drum in that part of the world is a dizzying variance. Drums in Africa come in various forms and are used for a variety of functions. However, some drums are much more popular than others.