Reference Entry

Talking drum

Anthony King

in Oxford Music Online

Published in print January 2001 |
Published online January 2001 | e-ISBN: 9781561592630 | DOI:

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Because of its great tonal flexibility, the hourglass pressure drum is sometimes referred to as ‘the talking drum’, but in many parts of Africa not only do all kinds of drum ‘talk’, but so also do various wind instruments, string instruments and certain rattles and other idiophones. See also Hourglass drum.

In general the term includes any drum (including the Slit-drum) that is beaten in such a way that certain features of an unvocalized text can be recognized by a listener, these features acting as clues to the meaning of the words being drummed. The two main instances in which a drum is used in this way are in signalling and in musical performances especially in part of Africa (for illustration, see Ghana, Republic of). The textual features most commonly reproduced on a drum are syllabic tone, stress and quantity, and phrase or sentence intonation and rhythm, but not all of these are used in any one culture or on any one occasion....

Reference Entry.  301 words. 

Subjects: Music

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