Talking Drum

by Justin Young

With the exception of the Amish, technology transcends all cultures and races . It’s the one thing that binds us all together. It’s diverse in nature and yet speaks one common language. Through the Internet, people from different nations, cultures, and states can get together and talk about numerous subjects. 

Here at HarlemLive we strive to reach out to people across and beyond our nation. So when asked to find a symbol, something that will capture the essence of HarlemLive, Elaine Johnson (HarlemLive advisor) and Richard Calton (HarlemLive Director) came up with the idea of the Talking Drum. 

The Talking Drum (Donno Drum) is used for musical performances and signaling or sending messages. Due to the fact that each tribe has its own language, it was difficult for the tribes to communicate verbally. The drum itself crossed language barriers and served as a common language. The drum, when hit a certain way, gives off a sound that resembles speech. That is why it is called the “Talking Drum”. By using the drum, messages could be sent to far off distances. 

The drum was cultivated primarily by the Ashanti, Hausa, Yoruba, and Akan tribes. And while the origin of the drum remains unclear, it is speculated that the first to use this drum was the Atumpan tribe. 

The drum was made out of an assortment of types of trees such as Tweneboa (also known as Twenedura), Bontondie and Edar. The trees used to carve the drum undergo an extensive religious ritual. Before the tree can be cut down, eggs must first be sacrificed to the tree. After that, members of the tribe would then pray to the tree. Akan, for example, felt that the tree was a powerful spirit and must be honored. So they prayed and made sacrifices to the tree for protection from its powers as well as to honor it. When the drum is finished it is believed to house the spirit of the tree. 

Our goal here at HarlemLive is to reach the hearts and minds of people not only in our community but world wide in the tradition of the “Talking Drum.”

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