The rhythmic cultural heritage of the people of West Africa.

The Talking Drum

Photograph of a West African talking drum, in the shape of an hourglass with tension strings surrounding its sides and a scarf tied loosely around the top. On top of the drumhead lies the curved percussion stick used to beat the drum.

“The most important of all the drums,” [Ogotemmêli] says, “is the talking drum.  It is the Nommo who made it.” “He threaded it with his fingers, as children do today with string games. Spreading his hands, he passed the thread ten times in each of his four fingers, the thumb not being used. He thus …


Hands creating a rhythm on a djembe drum.

“Rhythm is the soul of life. The whole universe revolves in rhythm. Everything and every human action revolves in rhythm.” ― Babatunde Olatunji The Integral Nature of West African Rhythm So synonymous is rhythm with life and movement, that many sub-Saharan languages, like Igbo, Efik, Hausa and Yoruba, do not have a distinct, disambiguating, readily …

The Griot

Three paintings of a griot in three different phases of praise-singing, accompanied by his talking drum.

Above the din of everyday culture — from the spontaneous chatter of the marketplace to the polyphonic rhythms of the traditional shuttle loom, anvil or pestle — rises the acoustic poetry of the West African griot. If it is through the beautiful cacophony of the day-to-day that people assert the present, then it is by …