Glossary of African Drumming and Dance

Agooda
Sierra Leone street music.

Ambass-bey
Cameroonian street music.

Apala
Yoruba vocal and percussion music from Nigeria.

Ashiko
A drum shaped like a cone and meant to be played with your hands. The ashiko drum is played throughout sub-Sarahan Africa and eastern Cuba. In Cuba it is known as the Boku and is played during carnivals and street parades. Some consider the ashiko to be male and the djembe female.

Asiko
Popular music sung in Yoruba language in Nigeria.

Axe
Yoruba word roughly translatable as "life force," now applied as a label for an Afro- Bahian pop style.

Balafon
West African xylophone made of wood slats and calabash resonators. Variations appear throughout Africa such as the marimba in Mozambique.

Batá
Family of three double-headed Nigerian drums played across the lap. Used in the Yoruba religious music of Cuba.

Batucada
A drumming session in samba.

Bendir
Northern African hand drum constructed from a circular wooden frame with a taut skin stretched over it.

Benga
Musical style from western Kenya originally from the Luo people.

Biguine
Dance rhythm from Martinique.

Bikutsi
Popular Cameroonian folk-based rhythm from the Yaounde area.

Cavacha
Zairian dance rhythm.

Clave
Pair of polished, hardwood sticks struck together to produce a high-pitched sound;also refers to the two-bar rhythmic pattern underlying Afro-Cuban music. Incorporated in early Congolese music.

Conga
Single-headed barrel-shaped drum of West African descent.

Congo music
Widely used term in Africa for dance music from Zaire and Congo. Also called "rumba" or sometimes "soukous."

Didadi
Athletic dance rhythm from Wassoulou region of Mali.

Djembe
West African hand drum often with metal sheets attached for amplification. A djembe (also jembe, jenbe, yembe, sanbanyi in Susu; pronounced "ZHEM-bay") is a goat skin covered drum shaped like a large goblet and meant to be played with bare hands. As a result of this shape and the goat skin head, there is a large difference in the tones produced. Striking the skin near the center produces a bass note; striking the skin near the rim can produce either a tone or slap note, depending on the technique used. The slap has a higher pitch than the tone. Some consider the djembe female and the Ashikos to be male. The djembe is said to contain 3 spirits. The spirit of the tree, the spirit of the animal of which the drum head is made and the spirit of the instrument maker. The djembe is also known as the magical drum.

Dunun
(also written as dundun, doundoun, djun-djun) usually played in sets of three graduated bass drums originally made of a wood shell with cow or goat skin heads. Today people also build them of metal, fiberglass and even PCV. The dunun originated in the Mali empire along with the djembe.

Ekomo

This is a drum from Calabar in Nigeria from the Efik speaking tribe. This drum is used all year long to support the dance movement and rythms of Monikim and Ekombi. Specifically, these drums play the cue just like djembe and and the rest from this family. like the Djembe and Djun Djun family of drums, the Ekomo drum also has a family. They are of Ekomo which produces the tone and Ibit which produces the bass, Uboro Ekomo is the female of the Ayara Ekomo.

Fuji
Yoruba voice and percussion popular in Nigeria.

Gankogui / Agogo Bell
The Gankogui (gon-KOE-gui), also known as agogo bell, double bell, or hi-low bell, is used in a variety of West African and Brazilian drumming. A two-pitch pattern is produced by striking the bells with a stick. It's great for keeping time for the drummer and dancers. The Gankogui adds a great deal of drive to the drumming. Gankogui are hand-forged of iron. The high bell is roughly a tonal third above the lower bell.

Gwoka
Percussion and street rhythm from the Antilles that has influenced zouk.

Highlife
Dance music from Ghana and eastern Nigeria.

Jali
Court or wandering bard in Manding society responsible for keeping oral histories and family lineages. Plays instruments such as kora and balafon.

Jit
Vocal and percussion music from Zimbabwe rural villages.

Juju
Popular Yoruba style from Nigeria, featuring talking drums, guitars, keyboards, and sometimes pedal steel.

Kpanlogo
A peg tuned drum from Volta and Western regions of Ghana.

Likembe
Lamellophone, or "thumb piano," from Congo.

Makossa
Cameroonian dance rhythm from Douala area.

Mbalax
Percussion music from Senegal.

Mbira
Thumb piano of the Shona people in Zimbabwe. Played by plucking metal strips on a wooden slab, often clamped inside a gourd resonator. Used recreationally and to communicate with ancestors.

Merdoum
Folkloric vocal and drum style.

Milo jazz
Sierre Leone street music.

Mutuashi
Dance and rhythm from southeastern Congo.

Ngoma
Refers to a combination of music-song-dance in Tanzania and Kenya. Also refers to a specific type of drum, or drums in general.

Polihet
Traditional girls' dance in the Ivory Coast popularized by Gnaore Djimi whose musichas a driven triplet feel and boisterous percussion breaks.

Rainstick
Purportedly invented by Chilean native Indians in order to attempt to bring rain to the dry desert regions of Chile. The rainstick makes a sound similar to the sound of falling rain. Rainsticks can be make of many things including bamboo and PCV piping. However, the traditional rainstick is made of ocotillo cactus.

Sabar
Senegalese drum played with one stick and one hand, featured in many Senegalese pop bands.

Shekere
Shekeres are found throughout the continent of Africa and called different things, such as the lilolo, axatse, and chequere. It is predominantly called in Nigeria. The shekere is made from various sized gourds that grow on the ground. The shape of the gourd determines the sound of the instrument. A shekere is made by drying the gourd for several months then removing the pulp and seeds. After it is scrubbed, a netting of bead work is added to the outside to produce a "shaker" sound. A great instrument to accompany Djembe, Ashiko and Bougarabou drumming.

Spraying
Term used in West Africa for showing appreciation of a musician by placing money on them while performing, also called dashing.

Talking Drum
The talking drum (aka dondo, adondo, atumpan, or gan gan) is a drum where the pitch can be varied, like a timpani. Like many drums, the talking drums have been used for communicating. When the drum is squeezed under the arm and played, one can produce the intonations of human speech. The drum originated in West Africa. These drums add a beautiful dynamic to the drum circle!

Tama
Wolof name for talking drum, capable of imitating spoken language.

Tambora
Two-headed goat skin drum, held across the player's lap, that provides characteristic heart-throb merengue beat. One head is played with a stick and the other is played with the hand.

Ziglibithy
Traditional Ivorian rhythm.

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Djembes - To Be Played From The Heart!