The talking drum is found in many countries and ethnic groups of West Africa and is known by many names: the Tama by the Wolof people of Senegal, the Odondo by the Mande people of Mali, the Gangan by the Yorubas of Nigeria.
The drum’s shape allows the player to modulate the pitch in order to capture the rhythm, tone and volume of human speech and as such the drum can mimic language! This quality made it a perfect instrument to pass coded messages between members of the same cultural group without outsiders understanding them.
When the people of West Africa were forcibly brought to the Americas during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, they brought their food, their languages and their instruments with them. In Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, and the United States, slave owners soon banned the talking drum because the Africans were using the instrument to organize rebellions and build coalitions.
The naming of our newsletter the Talking Drum is a tribute to all people, throughout history, who have made their voices heard, who have used their creativity and their imagination to build community and resist oppression.