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date: 17 January 2020


  • Laurence Libin


Frame drum of Jamaica and Cuba (where it is unnamed), consisting of a single head stretched (and nailed) over a square wooden frame or stool, raised off the ground by four legs and held between the player’s knees. It is tuned by means of an adjustable internal frame that presses against the head. The gumbé was mentioned in Jamaica by the English planter Edward Long in 1774 and again in Freetown in the 1820s. It appears to have African provenance though its origin is uncertain. In Africa the type is known as gome (Ghana), gube (Mali), goumbe (Côte d’Ivoire), kumbeh (Nigeria), maringa or malinga (Congo), and so on. In Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Trinidad it is called gombe, gombay, goomba, gamby, gumb, ‘bench drum’, and so on. The gumbé is a powerful cultural symbol formerly associated with prognostication and the invocation of ancestors. In the 18th century it was used to communicate messages and to warn of attacks by the British. The ...

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