Talking Drum

Ayan Ayandosu troupe, also known as The Oduduwa Talking Drummers entertaining Prince Charles of England
Ayan Ayandosu troupe, also known as The Oduduwa Talking Drummers entertaining Prince Charles of England. Photo: Alej & Rofrigerio blog

Talking drum called Gangan was invented in Old Oyo Empire at an unknown date. It is mostly used in the Oba’s palace to praise-sing eminent chiefs who come visiting, primarily to extol the virtues of the Oba. When handled with dexterity the talking drum can mimic human voices. Gangan consists of a widely hollow and cylindrical wood, with a tiny center (hence a hour-glass shape) covered at both ends with animal skin. The Tagri fruit is often used in removing the fur leather by dissecting and sprinkling it on the spread skin. After days of spreading and sprinkling of ashes, it is used to cover both ends of the cylindrical wood joined outwardly by the sides with tiny strings that is also made from skin. Use may commence after a few more hours of drying. The kongo, or curved stick used in beating the drum is often made from Igi Apa. The drummer holds or releases the side stings as he strikes the drum with the stick, thus giving different tunes. A narrow sound is produced when held, while a dull and heavy sound is yielded when the strings are relaxed.

The talking drum is an interesting agency of organized communication. Yoruba people have an impressive array of talking drum-sets and probably poses the richest heritage of drums in West Africa. The Dundun, which has a set of six drums; five talking and one non-talking, is said to be able to imitate all the tones and jibes of the Yoruba speech. Nobody is above the targeted mischief of Dundun. As it is used in praise, so it is employed in criticizing or mocking persons especially during the Old Oyo “free speech festivals.” The use of talking drums in modern Yoruba settings have led to the outbreak of violence. Many cultures employ the drum to proclaim the arrival and departure of important personnel, announce disasters or alert against invasion. The igbo uses the Ekwe, and the much bigger Ikoro which is permanently sited at market places. Other drums are the Yoruba Gbedu, Itsekiri’s Oji, Edo’s Okha, Isoko and Urhobo’s Ogri. A festival for the celebration of Africa’s drum culture, envisioned by Governor Amosun of Ogun State featured in its second anniversary the unveiling of an 18-feet drum.