- Mireille Helffer
Single-headed frame drum of the shamans of Central and East Asia, Indonesia, India, the Americas, the Arctic region, and elsewhere. The term ‘shaman’, borrowed from the Tungu language, designates someone who acts as an intermediary between humans and spirits of the upper and lower worlds; in the 20th century scholars universally adopted the term in ethnographical literature for various religious specialists who carry out therapeutic or divinatory practices. The shamans use a drum to call up spirits and to accompany their rituals. The name of the instrument varies among the different ethnic groups, but it usually indicates a single-headed drum with a circular or oval wooden frame, which is often decorated with nodules, jingling metal pendants, or holy ribbons. A handle is affixed across the inside of the frame or extends from the frame, and the head, which is commonly of reindeer-, goat-, or horse-skin, is struck with a wooden or bone beater. The instrument is generally considered as the shaman’s mount which transports him to other worlds; each part of it, including paintings that often ornament the head, is vested with deep symbolic meaning....