Slit drum

A slit drum is a hollow percussion instrument. In spite of the name, it is not a true drum but an idiophone, usually carved or constructed from bamboo or wood into a box with one or more slits in the top. Most slit drums have one slit, though two and three slits (cut into the shape of an "H") occur. If the resultant tongues are different width or thicknesses, the drum will produce two different pitches. It is used throughout Africa, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. In Africa such drums, strategically situated for optimal acoustic transmission (e.g., along a river or valley), have been used for long-distance communication.[1]

The ends of a slit drum are closed so that the shell becomes the resonating chamber for the sound vibrations created when the tongues are struck, usually with a mallet. The resonating chamber increases the volume of the sound produced by the tongue and presents the sound through an open port. If the resonating chamber is the correct size for the pitch being produced by the tongue, which means it has the correct volume of airspace to complete one full sound wave for that particular pitch, the instrument will be more efficient and louder.

The people of Vanuatu cut a large log with "totem" type carvings on the outer surface and hollow out the center leaving only a slit down the front. This hollowed out log gives the deep resonance of drums when hit on the outside with sticks.

Tuned log drums (from Emil Richards Collection)
Chromatically tuned log drums, range C3–C4
Bamileke drummers in Cameroon's West Province.

List of slit drums


Two Teponaztli

Two Aztec slit drums, called teponaztli. The characteristic "H" slits can be seen on the top of the drum in the foreground.


An example of a slit drum from the Philippines known as a kagul by the Maguindanaon people[3]

Wooden slit drums from Vanuatu, Bernice P. Bishop Museum

Wooden slit drums from Vanuatu, Bernice P. Bishop Museum


Ekwe drum of the Igbo people

Yangere slit drum Louvre MH96-28-72

Banda-Yangere animal-shaped slit drum

See also


  1. ^ Hart, Mickey; p. 52
  2. ^ Gato drum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
  3. ^ Mercurio, Philip Dominguez (2006). "Traditional Music of the Southern Philippines". PnoyAndTheCity: A center for Kulintang - A home for Pasikings. Retrieved June 12, 2006.


  • Hart, Mickey, and Fredric Lieberman, with D. A. Sonneborn (1991). Planet Drum: A Celebration of Percussion and Rhythm. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780062504142, ISBN 9780062503978, ISBN 9780062504623. OCLC 23357061.

External links

Agung a tamlang

The Agung a Tamlang is a type of Philippine slit drum made of hollowed out bamboo in imitation of the real agung. Pitch is determined by the length and depth of the slit. The agung a tamlang is used as practice for the real agung: players either use either one agung a tamlang (hold it with one hand and using the other to strike it with a beater) or using two agung a tamlangs where the other agung is held with one’s feet.

Collaborator (album)

Collaborator is the sixth studio album by Djam Karet, released in 1994 by HC Productions.

Igbo music

Igbo music (Igbo: Egwu nkwa ndi Igbo) is the music of the Igbo people, who are indigenous to the southeastern part of Nigeria. The Igbo traditionally rely heavily on percussion instruments such as the drum and the gong, which are popular because of their innate ability to provide a diverse array of tempo, sound, and pitch.

Igbo music is generally lively, upbeat, and spontaneous which creates a variety of sounds that enables the Igbo people to incorporate music into almost all the facets of their daily lives. Some very popular Igbo music styles are Igbo highlife, Igbo rap, Odumodu.


An Ikoro is a musical instrument created and used by the Igbo of Nigeria. It is a slit drum that is beaten with a stick or sticks and can be used in some parts of Igbo land for communicating, similar to a talking drum. Ikoro in Igbo land is not beaten by everybody. It is so special that any time its sound is heard people will gather at the village square. As soon as it sounds, people around assume that any of the following has happened: murder, land has been defiled, there is outbreak of war, a calamity has befallen the community etc. The inevitable thing that happens any time the Ikoro sound is heard is that people must gather at the village square to hear the latest development. Ikoro also brings a sense of urgency. The only difference between Ikoro and Ekwe is the size. Ekwe is small in size and portable while Ikoro is enormous in size, cannot be carried by one person and is never carried from place to place. Ikoro is kept in a fixed place usually at the village square. Ekwe is an ordinary musical instrument and is used to play many types of traditional music.

Jam block

A jam block is a percussion instrument which is a modern, hard plastic version of the wood block. It is sometimes referred to as a "clave block", "gok block", or "tempo block". Jam blocks are popularly used for their sturdiness and durability compared to the traditional wood block, as well as in cowbell-like roles.

Jam blocks are usually attached to timbales and drum kits, but can also be used as standalone orchestral instruments. These blocks are often used in salsa and other Latin American styles, although some modern drummers have made use of them in rock songs. Jam blocks are often used in the marching percussion idiom as well.

There are several manufacturers of jam blocks, including LP, Pearl, Meinl, and Toca. Manufacturers typically color-code their jam blocks by size/pitch. Variants include sambango bells, granite blocks, "stealth" and "blast" blocks, and hybrids incorporating elements of a güiro or tambourine.


Also called tagutok (Maranao), bantula or tagungtung (Bukidnon) and kuratung (Banuwaen).

The kagul is a type of Philippine bamboo scraper gong/slit drum of the Maguindanaon and Visayans with a jagged edge on one side, played with two beaters, one scarping the jagged edge and the other one making a beat. The Maguindanaon and the Banuwaen use it in the rice paddies to guard against voracious birds, using the sound it produces to scare them away. The Maguindanaon and the Bukidnon also used to use it for simple dance rhythms during social occasions. The rhythms were usually simplistic in nature, consisting of one rhythmic pattern sometimes combined with another. Use of the kagul in the former way is no longer practiced.


The Laggutu is a folk percussion slit drum instrument performed in southern regions of Azerbaijan: Astara, Lankaran, Masalli and Jalilabad.

"Just like the naghara, gosha naghara, gaval and other percussion instruments, the laggutu is widely used in modern ensembles and orchestras of national instruments." A rectangular wooden chamber, "the laggutu is placed on a platform," which may also serve as a resonator, "and the performer plays it with two wooden sticks. Usually, the laggutu is 250x125x50 mm in size and made of walnut, apricot, mulberry or beech wood." The thickness of the sides or walls varies, which produces differences in timbre and/or pitch, with the bottom generally being thicker than the top.

Lali (drum)

A Lali is an idiophonic Fijian drum of the wooden slit drum type similar to the New Zealand Māori Pahu; commonly found throughout Polynesia. It was an important part of traditional Fijian culture, used as a form of communication to announce births, deaths and wars. A smaller form of the Lali drum (Lali ni meke) is used in music. Lali drums are now used to call the people of an area together, such as church services; the Lali is also used to entertain guests at many hotel resorts. The Lali drum is made out of wood and played with hands but, is most commonly played with sticks (i uaua) which are made out of softer wood so as not to damage the Lali. Historically, a larger and smaller stick were used together when playing the Lali.Lali drums were traditionally made from resonant timbers such as Ta vola (Terminalia catappa) and Dilo (Calophyllum inophyllum)or in the case of sacred drums for spirit houses, Vesi (Instia bujuga). Portable war drums (Lali ni Valou) had two or three resonating chambers and sent complicated signals over the battlefield.Frequently Lali occurred in pairs, one smaller than the other, and were played together, in counterpoint. This rarely occurs in contemporary usage.

Sometimes special structures known as Bure ni Lali (lit. house for Lali) are constructed to keep the rain from filling the Lali and wetting the drummers.

Man playing Lali (historical photograph)

Man playing Lali-ni-Meke dance drum (historical photograph)


The lokole is a traditional slit drum played by the Mongo people in different areas of the Congo region, e.g., in the Kasai area. It is used both as a musical instrument and as a log drum to send messages in the bush; for example, it is known to be played to announce someone's death to the neighboring villages. It is a deep-sounding slit drum, traditionally made out of a hollow tree trunk. It is beaten with sticks, and can produce a small range of bass notes.


The mayohuacán or bayohabao was a wooden slit drum played by the indigenous Taíno people of the Caribbean. The instrument was played during sacred ceremonies, most notably the areíto. The drum was made of a thin wood and was shaped like an elongated gourd that measured up to one metre long and half a metre wide. According to early accounts of the taíno such as Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés' La historia general y natural de las Indias (1526), the sound produced by the mayohuacán could be heard as far as a "league and a half away" (a league being a distance between 5.3 and 7.9 miles, or 8.0 and 11.2 km). These were played by leaders of the tribe as accompaniment to songs which were used to pass on customs and laws to younger generations.

Music of Samoa

Traditional Samoan musical instruments included a fala, which is a rolled-up mat beaten with sticks. It is an idiophone which often accompanied choral singing. Another idiophone, a soundingboard, sometimes accompanied the solo recitation of poetry. A conch shell was blown for signaling. Amusement for small groups and individuals in private was afforded by a jaw harp, a raft panpipe, and a nose-blown flute.

Samoan wooden slit drums and variants have been used throughout Samoa for over a thousand years. There are many uses for these wooden drums, including calling village meetings, in times of war and peace, songs/chants and dance, and signalling long distances in inter-island naval warfare. In recent times they are used predominantly for calling chiefly and royal ceremonies as well as contemporary religious practices.

These are the five Samoan slit drum variants from largest to smallest.

1) Logo - felled trees - largest of the drums - The logo can only be played by being struck from the side, for instance by sliding the beater or very large log-like playing stick across the top of the drums to hit the slit lip on the other side. The logo was used to announce the king of Samoa, high chiefs and monarchy in times of old. The logo was also used to announce attacks and signals during times of war see re: Samoan Civil War, the Fijian Wars and also the Tongan Wars. Samoa also has recorded historical records of lesser known battles with neighbouring islands of Manono, Pukapuka, Tokelau, Tuamotu and Rarotonga, these battles may be classed as independent isolated skirmishes and inter-Island skirmishes between large familial klan groups.

2) 2 x Lali - large drum - The Lali are always played in pairs by two drummers. One of them beats the larger of the two, this is called the Tatasi, the other drummer plays the smaller Lali in the rhythmic pattern called the Talua. Both slit drums are played with sticks called Auta. The Lali were said to be introduced 700 years via Fiji.

3) Talipalau - is a medium-sized Lali drum in between the normal sized Lali and Pate in size.The Talipalau slit drum was introduced to Samoa via Tuamotu, an island now part of the French Polynesia island chain. Samoa and Tuamotu developed inter-Island familial bonded Klan groups over the space of 600yrs.

4) Pate - was introduced via Tahiti 500 yrs ago.

5) Nafa - smaller Indigenous Samoan Pate drum also made from Milo wood.

"Amerika Samoa", a song with words by Mariota Tiumalu Tuiasosopo and music by Napoleon Andrew Tuiteleleapaga, has been the official territorial anthem of American Samoa since 1950. "The Banner of Freedom," a song that honors the flag of Samoa, has been the national anthem of Samoa since 1962; it was composed by Sauni Iiga Kuresa.

Pate (instrument)

The Pātē is a Samoan percussion instrument of Tahitian origin, named after the Samoan word for "beat" or "clap" "pulse". It is one of many Samoan log drum variants and is of the slit drum family, and therefore is also of the idiophone percussion family. It is made from a hollowed-out log, usually of Miro wood and produces a distinctive and loud sound. Different sizes of log drums offer different pitches and volumes, as well as striking the log drum in the middle or near the ends.

Samoa had large Indigenous log wood Talipalau drums a variant a little larger than a pate drum and somewhat smaller than the Lali log drum variant. The dimensions of some Talipalau are large as 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) high and 3 metres (9.8 ft) in length; these Talipalau are a distant cousin to the Fijian Lali drum which were larger in size. The smaller pate was said to be introduced to Samoa by inter-married Tahitians whom visited and settled in Samoa some 500 years ago. In recent times however the pate is used together with the other lesser known traditional log drum variants as well as the Samoan fala as percussive musical instruments. Because of the widespread distribution of Samoan music through the great Polynesian expansion, the use of the Pātē has gained much popularity among other neighbouring Polynesian Islands such as Uvea and Futuna, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Niue.

There are five main Samoan wooden slit drum variants:

The logo, often carved straight from the carcass of giant felled trees, is the largest of the Samoan drum variants. Some of these drums were said to need upward of 70 men to carry them to the sea—such was the enormity of the drums that they could only be transported by flotation. When carved into a drum, the logo can only be played by being struck from the side, for instance by sliding the beater or very large log like playing stick across the top of the drum to hit the slit lip on the other side. The logo was used to announce the King of Samoa, High Chiefs and monarchy in times of old. The logo was also used to announce attacks and signals during times of war (see: Samoan Civil War, the Fijian Wars and also the Tongan Wars). Samoa also has recorded historical records of lesser known battles with neighboring Islands of Manono, Pukapuka, Tokelau, Tuamotu and Rarotonga, these battles may be classed as independent isolated inter-island skirmishes between large familial clan groups.Lali are large drums that are always played in pairs by two drummers. One of them beats the larger of the two, called the Tatasi. The other drummer plays the smaller Lali in the rythmic pattern called the Talua. Both slit drums are played with sticks called Auta. The Lali were said to be introduced 700 years ago via Fiji.The talipalau is a medium-sized Lali drum in between the normal-sized lali and the pate. The talipalau slit drum was introduced to Samoa via Tuamotu and Tahiti. It is now part of the Island group now part of the French Polynesian Island chain. The archipelago of Samoa, Tahiti and Tuamotu developed inter-island familial bonded clans over the span of 800 years.The pate was introduced via Tahiti 500 years ago. It is the most well-known of the drum variants simply because of its portability and easy-to-use size, as well as becuse of its various different tones and pitches.The fa'aali'i-nafa is a smaller indigenous Samoan pate drum also made from Milo wood.Tahitian warriors introduced intricate wooden log pate drumming to the Samoan Islands and the Cook Islands. In Rarotonga its origins have grown into deep spiritual roots that are still found in Cook Islands drumming today.

In Samoa log drums have traditionally been used in communicating over large distances in times of war and for signalling times of Sa, Chief and Village Meetings. Drums are also used in traditional song and dance.

In Tahiti the people have taken a more contemporary approache where drumming and dancing is used more for entertainment and tourism than traditional functions. French Polynesia celebrates the annual Heiva i Tahiti festival where different tribes and island clan groups are able to contest against each other in dance and drumming competition the highest quality drumming in all of the South Pacific.

Slit drum (Vanuatu)

In Vanuatu, a slit drum is a musical instrument that is traditionally played by men of high rank.In most islands of Vanuatu, the drum has little to no decoration, and is played horizontally on the ground. On the island of Ambrym though, such drums stand vertically on the ground; they are decorated with one or several faces with disk eyes, representing ancestral figures, such a figure is called a tamtam. The distinctive shape of these Ambrym drums has made them iconic of Vanuatu as a whole; they are frequently found in museums around the world, represented on Vanuatu banknotes, and featured in the tourism industry.

Steel tongue drum

A steel tongue drum, tank drum or hank drum is a round steel slit/tongue drum originally fashioned from a propane tank.

Tamtam (disambiguation)

The tamtam, sometimes spelled tam-tam, is a type of gong.

TamTam, Tam-Tam, tamtam, or tam-tam may also refer to:

Tamtam, Iran, a village in Kermanshah Province, Iran

Tam-Tams, a weekly drum circle held Sundays in the summer in Montreal

Tam Tam (Samurai Shodown), a character from the fighting game Samurai Shodown

Tam-Tam (album), a 1983 album by Amanda Lear

TamTam, a software suite for the One Laptop per Child program's OLPC XO-1

Tam Tam crackers, an hexagonal crumbly cracker made by Manischewitz

Tam Tam (video game developer), Japanese video game developer

Slit drum (Vanuatu) or tamtam, a type of slit drum used in the country of Vanuatu

Tam Tam Pour L'Ethiopie, a musical ensemble formed for the 1985 charity single "Starvation/Tam Tam Pour L'Ethiopie"


A teponaztli [tepoˈnast͡ɬi] is a type of slit drum used in central Mexico by the Aztecs and related cultures.

Tetela people

The Tetela people (or Batetela in the plural) are an ethnic group of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, most of whom speak the Tetela language.

Wood block

A wood block (also spelled as a single word, woodblock) is a small slit drum made from a single piece of wood and used as a percussion instrument. The term generally signifies the Western orchestral instrument, though it is related to the ban time-beaters used by the Han Chinese, which is why the Western instrument is sometimes referred to as Chinese woodblock. Alternative names sometimes used in ragtime and jazz are clog box and tap box. In orchestral music scores, wood blocks may be indicated by the French bloc de bois or tambour de bois, German Holzblock or Holzblocktrommel, or Italian cassa di legno (Blades and Holland 2001).

The orchestral wood block of the West is generally made from teak or another hardwood. The dimensions of this instrument vary, although it is either a rectangular or cylindrical block of wood with one or sometimes two longitudinal cavities (Blades and Holland 2001). It is played by striking it with a stick, which produces a sharp crack (Montagu 2002b). Alternatively, a rounder mallet, soft or hard, may be used, which produces a deeper-pitched and fuller "knocking" sound.

In a drum kit, a wood block was traditionally mounted on a clamp fixed to the top of the rear rim of the bass drum.

Yuka (music)

Yuka is a style of Cuban music and dance and a type of drum, of Congolese origin. The word yuka is Bantu, and means 'to beat'. For preference, the drums are made from hollowed-out trunks of the avocado tree. Leather is nailed to one of the open ends, and the player hits the skin with both hands, the drum being slanted between his legs. The drums come in three sizes: caja (large with the lowest tone), mula (middle drum) and cachimbo (a term referring to its small size) which has the highest pitch of the 3 drums. Rhythms may also be played on the drum body, the drummer using a small mallet or a stave in one hand, the other hand slapping the leather. The drummer wears two small rattles (nkembí), made of metal or gourds, on his wrists. The drums may be accompanied by staves on a guagua (hollow wooden slit drum) or the drum body, and by percussion on a piece of iron, the muela or a guataca (a hoe pick used for plowing). The yuka accompanied by this guataca bell plays a variation of the commonly used tresillo pattern.

The secular dance is performed by a couple as a stylised contest: the man chases, the woman avoids. The origin of the yuka lies in western Cuba, particularly Matanzas and Pinar del Río, where it gave rise to the yambú style of rumba.

Broad culture

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