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Article

Michael Suing

[chancega, cancega](Lakota: ‘wood kettle’)

Generic Sioux Indian term for frame drums. The term refers both to single- and double-headed drums used in personal, powwow, and ceremonial settings, while čháŋčheğa miméla refers specifically to the hand drum. Historic Euro-American accounts often refer to the large drums as war drums; however, this is a misconception as specific drums did not exist for this purpose. Lakota construction methods and materials are representative of traditional drummaking in the Northern Great Plains. A likely predecessor of the Lakota frame drum was a solitary hoop of bent branches with no drum head, played by striking the hoop with a beater. This idiophonic frame was a talismanic object employed by healers and shamans. After idiophonic frames, longitudinally split and bent sections of wood with increased structural integrity for supporting a drum head were used. The two ends were overlapped and lashed with sinew and hide passing through holes cut through the wood. Later, vegetal twine, iron tacks, and wire replaced or were used to repair lapped joints. The use of cross-sections of hollowed trees is common in larger powwow drums, but smaller handheld drums sometimes employed this method. Other lumber, typically from discarded shipping crates, provided wood of ideal thickness and length for use as bent drum frames, and other collected materials, such as large snapping turtle shells, large iron hoops, small shipping crates, wooden buckets, and cast iron kettles were used as drum frames or bodies....

Article

Daluka  

Goblet drum of Sudan. It is traditionally made of clay and played by women, notably by the main singer during spirit possession ceremonies. The Arabic name daluka, of Nubian origin, denotes a small drum beaten by the hand; in a bowl excavated from Tumulus VI at Hobagi, Meroe, one such drum is shown hanging from the drummer’s neck....

Article

J. Richard Haefer

Generic term for drum among the Ojibwa Indians of the Great Lakes area of North America. It specifically refers to the large powwow-style drum that is a recreation of the historic war drum. The drum is made from a large log or from a staved washtub about 50 to 60 cm in diameter and 35 cm deep. Traditionally it was double-headed, but modern washtub drums have a circular wooden piece attached to the base to hold the staves in place, with a circular opening cut in the middle of the circular piece and a single cowhide head on the top. Leather straps attached to each side are used to mount the drum to the dedsaakwa’igan, a four-pole frame that holds the drum above the ground; the old term for the drum legs is waaganaakobijigan (‘scalp sticks’). The drum is played by four or more singers each with a baaga’akokwaan or ...

Article

Gaaw  

J. Richard Haefer

Generic term for drums, and specifically the frame drum, of the Tlingit and Haida peoples of Alaska. The circular frame, about 30 to 35 cm in diameter, is made from willow wood. The single head, of elk skin, is wetted and then dried around the frame. The head is tied across the back of the frame with sinew strips crossing at the centre to form a grip. It is struck with a willow stick about 30 cm long with a padded hide tip. The head is usually decorated on the outside in black, red, and green colours depicting crests symbolizing the clan of the owner. Some instruments are also decorated on the inner surface. The term gaaw may be modified with an adjective to denote other objects, for example lákt gaaw is a box drum and gaaw hít a drum house.

The lgheli is a similar instrument of the Dena’ina (Tanaina Athabascan) people of Alaska. It is not decorated and the head is of moose skin. The drumstick is padded with a small piece of sheepskin pelt....

Article

Victoria Lindsay Levine

Double-headed snare drum of the Choctaw people of Mississippi, USA. Presumably modelled after a European instrument given to or captured by the Choctaw during the 1700s, such drums are made from black gum, cyprus, hard pine, poplar, or sweet gum wood and are about 31 cm tall by 25 cm in diameter, although sizes vary. The heads are made of goatskin, sheepskin, or deerskin and are attached to the body by hoops made of hickory wood. The hoops are laced together with strips of deer hide in a V pattern. Two additional strips rest on the unplayed lower head, acting as snares. The male drummer uses a pair of hickory drumsticks about 30 cm long. The drum is played to accompany processions such as dance troupes entering or leaving an arena or ballplayers taking or exiting the field. The Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), and Yuchi (Euchee) had similar snare drums in the past....

Article

J. Richard Haefer

Cylindrical drum of the Aztec (Nahua) people of pre-Contact Mexico. The body was open at the bottom and had a single head of jaguar skin or deerskin pegged to it and beaten with bare hands to accompany songs, the player either sitting beside the drum or on top of it. Along with the teponaztli (wooden slit drum), it was one of the most important instruments of Aztec culture, frequently inscribed with symbolic carvings. The name huehuetl is derived from the name of the tree ahuehuete (Pinus sabiniana), which supplied the wood from which the instrument was made, though examples of oak and walnut exist (earlier ones might have been made of precious metal or clay). It was tuned by heating the interior with live coals to dry and tauten the head. High and low pitches were produced by striking near the rim and centre of the head, respectively. Drum patterns were apparently learned by reciting the syllables ...

Article

J. Richard Haefer

(Apache: ísal, ‘pot’ or ‘bucket’; ‘bucket bound around’)

Water drum of the Apache people of Arizona and New Mexico. A large iron pot or kettle with the handle removed is partially filled with water and sacred materials (corn pollen and ash). A buckskin head (or nowadays sometimes rubber from a truck tire inner tube) is lashed tightly over the opening with buckskin thongs or strips of cloth or inner-tube rubber, with the excess skin or rubber draped around the pot. Historically a large pottery vessel was used; there is no evidence for use of a wooden vessel. The drumstick, of pine, is wrapped in buckskin at the distal end.

The drum accompanies singing, secular and religious (na-i-es, girl’s puberty ceremony; edotal, diagnostic; gojital, curing). It is usually played in groups of four with the performers standing and holding the drums under the left elbow, but in the curing rites it is held in the lap of a seated player. The earliest representation of the drum is a painting by George Catlin of ...

Article

Mary Riemer-Weller

revised by J. Richard Haefer

[kana’tsio:wi] (Seneca: ‘covered keg’ or ‘bucket’)

Water drum of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy peoples of northeastern North America. It is called gana’atso [gä no jo’ o] in Cayugan. The drum is a small wooden vessel covered with a soft-tanned hide which is held taut by a cloth-wound wooden hoop. Water is kept in it at all times and before being played it is inverted to soak the skin, which is then tightened until a characteristic high ‘pinging’ tone is heard when it is tapped lightly with a wooden beater. The body can be carved from a solid block of wood, in which case a binding ring is wrapped around it to prevent it from splitting, or it can be made from a staved wooden nail keg. The drums are usually 13 to 15 cm in diameter and 11 to 13 cm deep. A bung hole about halfway up the side allows water to be added without removing the head; if allowed to dry, solid-bodied drums tend to split and staved drums loosen and could collapse. The drumstick (...

Article

Mary Riemer-Weller

(Cheyenne: ‘bass drum’)

Large double-headed drum of the Cheyenne Indians of the northern Plains of the USA. The ‘big drum’, a common name used to distinguish the bass drum from the smaller handheld frame drum, is found throughout North America. It is generally broad and shallow, about 60 to 80 cm in diameter and 20 to 40 cm deep and traditionally made from a hollowed log. The heads, of untanned hide, are laced together in criss-cross fashion around the body. Although a commercial bass drum is often used nowadays, its calfskin or plastic heads may be replaced with deer hide (as among the Flathead people of Montana) or buffalo skin (as among the Dakota for use in their sun dance). The padded beaters, 35 to 45 cm long, can be of wood or fibreglass, the latter favoured for its flexibility. Drums made by the Ojibwa of the western Great Lakes have painted heads and are elaborately decorated with cloth and beadwork; they are suspended from four stakes driven into the ground....

Article

Klisala Harrison

[mənai]

Generic term for drums of the Kwakwaka’wakw and other indigenous peoples of the North American Pacific Northwest Coast, including the log drum, box drum, and frame drum. The drumming board is related.

(1) The Kwakwaka’wakw log drum is made from a hollowed red cedar log, with the sides and edges often carved and painted. The drum is a permanent fixture in a Kwakwaka’wakw ceremonial house (‘big house’). The big house Wawadit’la (at CDN.VI.rbcm) holds an example carved to represent a killer whale, painted black and red. Log drum designs are usually ‘crest animals’ of the extended family to which a big house belongs.

The log drum spans the width of a big house, leaving space on either side for dancers to enter and exit. The instrument is held off the floor by two wood blocks, one at either end, and is struck by several people using batons of split pinewood. The drum stick typically is held with the arm extended and then moved downwards and forwards. Drummers, typically males, sit on either side of the instrument. Often a bench is built on the side of the drum that is closest to the big house wall while chairs are used for the other side. Log drums are sometimes played concurrently with frame drums and box drums....

Article

(from Omaha ne’xe: ‘water vessel’; and gaku: ‘to beat’)

Water drum of the Omaha people of the central Plains area of the USA. It is made from a hollowed log partially filled with water and with a head of buffalo skin. The drum is tuned by tipping it to wet the skin, then partially drying it near a fire to produce the correct sound. As with the Ojibwa ...

Article

David P. McAllester

revised by J. Richard Haefer

Water drum used in meetings of the Native American (or Peyote) Church. The standard drum consists of a well-soaked buckskin head stretched over an iron kettle about 25 cm deep. The best skins are said to be ‘brain tanned’. The head symbolizes the former war shield, now a spiritual shield. It is attached by an intricate tying method that has symbolic import. Symbolism and rules may vary from fireplace to fireplace with some ideas common throughout the religion. Seven stones or marbles indicating the seven days, the seven sisters (constellations), the seven senses (orifices) of the face, or, for the Sioux, the seven council fires, are tied to the head. The rope tying the head represents the rope used to tie enemies, the reins of war horses, or blood veins. The kettle is half-filled with water, which represents rain or the water of the earth; the sound of the drum represents thunder. Live coals (four to 12 depending on the fireplace) symbolizing lightning are put in the water before the head is attached. The skin is kept moist during meetings by vigorously shaking the kettle between songs or by a quick shake during a song when the sound begins to change. At some fireplaces the drummer will suck or blow on the edge of the drum to force water onto the head, while at others this is prohibited....

Article

Mary Riemer-Weller

revised by Susan M. Taffe Reed and Glen Jacobs

[pokhanii’kan]

Generic term for drums of the Munsee Indians of the Eastern Woodlands in North America; their relatives the Unami use the word puhënikàn. Their drums include the deerskin drum, water drum, hand drum, and powwow drum, all of which are played by one or more drummers each using one beater.

The deerskin drum, also called the skin drum or hide drum, is an idiophone made by folding a deer hide into a bundle; it appears in several forms. The atoh-xayii-powuniikan (Munsee: ‘deer skin drum’) is made from a single skin of the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), preferably a buck. The animal is skinned and its hide fleshed, a process of removing most of the muscle and fat. At this point the hide can be salted, dried, and stored until needed. To make the drum, the hide is soaked for several days in an alkaline solution, such as hardwood ash mixed with water, which opens the pores and helps break down the hair follicles. Next, the hide is laid over a fleshing beam and a scraper is used to remove all remaining muscle, fat, and membrane. Then the hide is turned over and scraped to remove the hair and several layers of epidermis, a process called graining. Finally, the hide is cleaned by soaking overnight in fast-moving water. The rawhide is then folded and bound into a packet approximately 43 cm square....

Article

Pumín  

Mary Riemer-Weller

revised by J. Richard Haefer

Generic term for drum of the Flathead Indians of Montana, USA. The kwtunt pumín is the large war drum or ‘big drum’ nowadays used to accompany powwow. Traditionally it is a double-headed drum made from a hollowed log and covered with bison or deer hides laced together from top to bottom; a modern substitute is a marching band bass drum with Mylar heads. It is played with a padded stick (spełce) about 48 cm long, now often a fibreglass rod.

More common is the łppumin or chelshpumin (chelsh: ‘hand’; łppumin: ‘drum’), a single-headed frame drum. Traditionally the frame was made from thin strips of wood, preferably fir, soaked and bent into a circle, or from part of a hollowed tree stump, but it can be made from a circular cheese crate or a metal wheel rim. The frame varies from 30 to 40 cm in diameter and 5 to 10 cm in depth. The ...

Article

Chad Stephen Hamill

[kiwkiwíl’ec]

Frame drum of the Native Americans of the Columbia Plateau. It is traditionally made of deer or elk hide stretched over a wooden circular hoop typically 5.5 to 10 cm deep and 25 to 38 cm in diameter, and struck by a stick with one hand. The hide is perforated at the perimeter with an awl or deer antler to form a series of holes 4 to 5 cm apart, then soaked, stretched over the frame, and tied through the holes across the open back, creating a knot in the center for a grip. Called pumíntn by Salish speakers and kiwkiwíl’ec by Sahaptin speakers, it is particularly important in the context of the Washat (Seven Drum Religion), a complex ceremony of drumming, dancing, and singing that honours indigenous foods and natural cycles that sustain the community. The drum is also used in communal ceremonies, as an accompaniment for personal songs, and during healings conducted by a medicine person....

Article

Tambe  

Mary Riemer-Weller

revised by J. Richard Haefer

[taàbè, tembe, tombe]

Double-headed drum of the Tewa Indians of New Mexico. It is made from a hollowed cottonwood or aspen tree log and is roughly cylindrical. A drum of average size is 30 to 40 cm in diameter and 55 to 73 cm deep. The heads, usually made of calfskin for smaller drums and cowhide for larger ones, are stretched tightly over the ends of the log while wet. The heads extend about 12 cm over the sides and are laced together in a W pattern. Two hide handles are fastened to the lacing, near the top and bottom, one directly below the other. During a ceremony, the drum is carried or, if very large, suspended on a wooden stake by the handles. It is played with a padded beater (tambefe) held in the right hand. The instrument is used to accompany songs associated with numerous ceremonies. The heads are painted with contrasting natural colours and the sides of the log may also be painted....

Article

J. Richard Haefer

Collective name for the duct flute and drum used by the Yoeme Yaqui Indians of Arizona and northern Mexico. It is played when both the maso (deer dancer) and pahko’ola (pascola) dancers are dancing at the same time. The flute, called kusia or cuzia, has two fingerholes and a thumbhole. It is made from cane that grows in the Yaqui river basin. Two sections of cane, each 20 to 25 cm long, are joined at a node by carving one end so it can slide inside the other tube; the V-shaped toneholes are in the lower section. A mouthpiece is formed by undercutting the proximal end of the cane and inserting a smaller piece of cane beneath, held in place by a peg to make an internal duct to direct the airflow against a V-shaped lip cut in the upper surface of the top section.

The drum, called ...