The Drum

Scholars have deduced that while melody and harmony are preeminent in traditional European music (and the West generally speaking) in African music (more so in West Africa) rhythm is king. The drum is the greatest purveyor of rhythm. And rhythm is arguably the most definitive of musical style in popular contemporary music. Although we use the drums in our music, mostly to create grooves and stimulate dance, in traditional Yoruba music the drum plays more diverse roles. They do much more than stimulate dance, especially in the sacred worship of Yoruba deities.

In my band, we use the four major families of Yoruba drums. Each family consists of drums of different sizes playing generally slave/master, support/lead roles. In each instance, the mother drum (iya ilu) plays the lead role. The four families are Dundun/Gangan, Bata, Sakara, Ogido/Gbedu. Traditionally, each family has a complete ensemble. Oftentimes we use different drums from different families together, and other times, we play the drums as complete ensembles as they are used traditionally. Although the Yoruba utilise the flute, agidigbo and goje just as there are lots of melodic and harmonic instruments in other African cultures- kora, marimba, mbira, oja (ibo flute), kalimba, etc. their music is predominantly driven by drums and other percussion instruments. Drums, drums and more drums.

African Grooves