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History and Culture of Drums and Percussion

Drums are found in nearly every culture in the world and have existed since before 6000 B.C. They have had ceremonial, sacred, and symbolic associations. Here's your complete resource on the uses of drums and percussion in various cultures throughout history.

Aboriginal Musical Instruments
From hand clapping and lap slapping to drums made from logs and reptile skins, here's a history of Australian Aboriginal instruments. From the Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre of Australia.

Ancient Nubian Culture - Renewed
Although Nubian music was originally dominated by drums, adding other instruments has resulted in new fans outside the Nubian community. Includes sound files and a Quicktime movie. From CNN Interactive.

If you ever wanted to know more about the history behind that Anklung you got for your birthday, here's where you can go. Courtesy of CHICO. Note Anklung is also spelled Angklung.

Although bells are universal, their use and meanings are greatly culture specific. This link will give you some background info. From Wikipedia.

Bodhran or Frame Drum
An interesting treatise on the history, lore, culture, and secrets of the Bodhran. From Roundstone Musical Instruments. And check out Frame Drum Basics from Rhythmweb.com.

Known as an instrument of Flamenco Percussion, the Cajon originated from a codfish box aboard Spanish boats sailing to America in the 16th century.

Informative site, developed by Neil Weiss, that covers the Afro-Uruguayan rhythm Candombe. Includes info on the three drums of the Cuerda and more.

Castanets have been around for more than 2000 years. Learn the difference between male (from Mars?) and female (from Venus?) castanets in this brief history with links to additional references. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Daiko is a generic Japanese term for many different styles of drums. Here is some info on the various styles of Japanese drums made by Miyoshi Daiko. From San Jose Taiko site. For more, see the Taiko link also in this History & Culture section.

Here's some general info on this Arabic instrument, very popular throughout the Middle East and other Islamic-influenced countries. It's also known as a dumbek, derbocka, and dumbelek. Courtesy of ASZA.com.

If you'd like to know what one is, check it out. Courtesy of CHICO.

Deerskin Drum
This is a hand drum of the natives on the West Coast of Canada. From ASZA.com.

This instrument is by far the most popular African drum to be played outside of Africa. From ASZA.com site.

Double Bell
Originating in Nigeria, the Oghene single or double bells can be used for many styles of music. The Oghene, originally hand forged by some of Nigeria's most skillful craftsmen, offers a unique, resonant and sustaining metallic bell sound. Can be played with fingers, hand, or sticks.

The Hammered Dulcimer is a stringed instrument that was the forerunner of the piano, which is also considered a percussion instrument. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Dig that photo of the crazy Gong Drum Kit, circa 1924. If you like vintage gear, you'll love these pics! From the EUCHMI (Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments) Web site.

Finger Cymbals
You'd need a mouse-sized pair of sticks to play a ride beat on these suckers, also known as Zils. Also spelled Zills. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

There's more than just masculine and feminine to Gender, you know? Check this out. Courtesy of CHICO's Musical Heritage Network at the University of Michigan.

Hula Sounds
Chanting and instruments have been a part of the hula since its beginnings. Learn the "Kawika" chant and the instruments of Hawaiian culture. Courtesy of aloha-hawaii.com.

Jaw Harp
The Jaw harp (also known as a Jew's Harp) is not a harp and has no historic association with Jewish traditions. If you'd like to know exactly what it is, you can find out here. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Jazz History Time-Line
Check out the jazz time-line, courtesy allaboutjazz.com.

Karate Drums
The Japanese drum group Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko uses choreography that incorporates elements of Karate with drumming. Follow this link to learn how they've modernized this traditional 15th century form for audiences of today.

Kettle Drum
Use of the Kettle Drum, ancestor to our modern Tympani, dates back to before 4000 B.C. To learn more and have access to some mp3 sounds, courtesy of the Early Patches Web site. Click here for more info, courtesy of CHICO's Musical Heritage Network at the University of Michigan.

The khomok of the Baul people of Bengal is also known as a khamak, anandalahari, and gubgubi. From ASZA.com site.

Similar to the Karate Drum, this instrument has pebbles inside.

Lambeg Drum Tradition
Billy Kennedy calls the Lambeg drum of Ireland "a bodhran on steroids!"

Have you ever wondered what a Lithophone is? Here's your chance to find out. Courtesy of quinion.com.

Malaysia - Cultures & People
Importance of Malaysian drums to the history and culture of Malaysia. Courtesy of the Official Homepage of the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, New York.

If you've ever wondered what a Mbira is, check this out.

Multimedia Music Dictionary
Check out this awesome multimedia music dictionary, courtesy of Virginia Tech.

Orchestra Percussion History
Brief history of Percussion instruments used in orchestras, along with descriptions of each. While you're browsing, you can treat yourself to a number of classical orchestral pieces via Real Audio (if you need the RealPlayer, you can download it for free from this site). Courtesy of ERCHA.

Shekere / Sekere
Don't let the name throw you - it's just a rattle! This link gives you detailed instructions on how to make your own. From drums.org. Or, if you'd rather not make your own, check out www.sekere.com.

Steel Drum / Pan History
Learn how the islanders of Trinidad and Tobago first created these steel drums (or pans) in the 1930's, from empty 55-gallon oil barrels.

Here's a good site with lots of info this famous percussion instrument from North India. Includes lessons, books, Tabla Forum, audio examples, and more. Created by David Courtney, Ph.D, Dr. T.A. Reddy, Todd Dombrowski and Shawn Mativetsky.

The Drum (Taiko in Japanese) was the first instrument used by mankind and on this site Megumi Ochi, the curator of the Taiko Drum Museum in Tokyo, discusses the history of the Taiko. From the Rolling Thunder Taiko Resource. For more on Japanese drums, see the Daiko link on this History & Culture of Drums/Percussion page.

Talking Drum
"Gan Gan" and "Dun Dun" may have been the first words you uttered as a baby, but they're also West African names for small and large Talking Drums. For selected references and a sound file of the authentic thing, follow this link. Courtesy of CHICO's Musical Heritage Network at the University of Michigan.

French Drums, anyone? Here's one that was popular a few centuries ago in western European regimental and marching bands. Courtesy of CHICO's Musical Heritage Network at the University of Michigan.

Gypsies weren't the first to use these ancient instruments and even Mozart jumped on the bandwagon. You can even print down a drawing of the instrument from this site and color it in. (Good for the kid in you!) Courtesy of dsokids.com.

If you're into the Ancient Aztec Gods, you won't want to miss this instrument. Check it out. From CHICO's Musical Heritage Network at the University of Michigan.

Tortoise Rattle
This is a traditional instrument of the Ojibway people of Central Canada, used in ceremonies. From ASZA.com.

This is a vessel drum originally from the Igbo people of Nigeria. From ASZA.com.

Weird New Instruments
If you thought there were plenty of weird old instruments around, wait 'til you check out these weird new ones! And dig this – some of the best musicians around are using them. From Oddmusic.com.

West African Percussion Rhythms
Complete with soundfiles. Check it out!

A xylophone made out of old shoes, tires, and bones? (Reminds me of John Cage's music and my days in the percussion ensemble!) Here's some basic info on building your own Xylophone. From Jim Doble.

Have fun, stay loose, and I'll see you online!

Tiger Bill


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