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date: 14 November 2019

Cave drumslocked

  • Gerhard Kubik


Term used for old drums found in caves north of the town of Singida in central Tanzania. Since about 1935, 78 drums have been found distributed in 16 sacred caves, as reported by the National Museum in Dar es Salaam. The age of these instruments, many of which had partly disintegrated, was estimated at more than 200 years. The makers belonged to neither the Iramb, nor the Nyaturu, nor any other people living there nowadays; the Ihanzu claim that when they moved into the area long ago, the drums were already there. Some one-string bowed lutes were also found in the caves. A huge ancient drum discovered near the summit of Samaja Hill in Irambaland, approximately 45 miles north of Singida, can also be seen in the National Museum. The drum’s body is cut from the stem of an acacia tree and looks like a big tooth with two roots. To produce the tension needed for the skin, large wooden plugs laced with strings were used. It is thought that some of these ‘hidden drums’ were used in religious or ritual contexts, perhaps associated with rain-making....

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