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Drum Languages Project

Nigeria (Yoruba)

The Yoruba Drum Language (Nigeria)

In Yoruba drum music, membranophones such as the dùndún, a tension drum popularly known as ‘talking drum’, and the double-headed conical drums from the bàtá family are used as speech surrogates, capable of conveying literal utterances, largely relying on the tonality of the Yoruba language, with three contrasting speech tones. Besides being used for communication in distinct situations, these drums are highly regarded religious objects and are an essential part of Yoruba culture.

The Yoruba drums dùndún (left) and omele bàtá (right).