Slotted drum

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Hollow slot drum of the Bamileke in West Cameroon

The slit drum , also tomtom, formerly a wooden drum; is a traditional idiophonic impact instrument that is used as a news drum , in ritual music and as a signaling instrument. In the ensemble, she mainly sets the beat for the other rhythm instruments.


Slot drums are common in Africa , South and Central America , Southeast Asia, and Oceania . They are made from hollowed-out tree trunks, bamboo tubes or (very rarely) metal with one or more slots as an opening. You play them with mallets, sticks and sometimes with your hands. Their size varies greatly and ranges from the small temple block of four centimeters or more , which is used in Buddhist ritual music, to the largest slit drums of the Nagas in Assam . These songkong consist of eleven-meter-long trunks, several of which are beaten at the same time as a signaling instrument or to announce important news when danger threatens. Some Banda ethnic groups in Central Africa make instruments of similar size . According to Max Schmidt's description in 1905, the Brazilian Awetí built slotted drums up to six meters long. A log drum ( atingting kon ) acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the island of Ambrym, part of the oceanic island state of Vanuatu, is 4.27 meters long. It was set up vertically with other slit drums on the central dance floor ( ranhara ) of the village, where it was beaten during initiation rites ( maghe ) and other rituals,

Large slit drums made from tree trunks are usually on the ground, small tonewoods are carried around the neck with a cord; as a news drum they hang vertically on trees or in specially built towers. Slit drums can be round, triangular, or rectangular; some are animal or human in shape. The term “ drum ” is misleading because there is no membrane that is set in motion. The instrument is more related to a metal gong . The term slit gong has therefore become common in English . If the slit is cut outside the middle, two tones can be struck on the halves of different widths.

Block slot drum

The simplest design has a straight slot cut into a solid block of wood. This includes the East Asian wood fish in the shape of a fish or a wooden ball. Smaller round wooden fish are held in the hand, larger ones are placed or hung on a ring-shaped cushion. In principle, the wooden fish corresponds to the rectangular temple block with a slot that produces a tone with a full sound. A special further development of a round wooden fish is the song lang , which in the South Vietnamese music tài tù ' since the end of the 19th century is usually also used as a clock by the player of a stringed instrument. A U-shaped elastic strip of buffalo skin with a ball at the end is attached to the wooden body, which can be pressed down with the foot. The Vietnamese wooden fish mō cá also functions as a scraper with its grooved surface.

With the Minangkabau in western Sumatra , a log drum several meters long made from a tree trunk closed at the ends is a tradition. Photos by Jaap Kunst from 1926 show such a giant slit drum on a wooden frame about two meters above the ground with a pavilion roof over it. It was struck at the edges of the slit during rituals and could be heard for miles. Smaller, vertically suspended slit drums served the Minangkabau as signaling instruments and were hollowed out in the shape of a boat, as was otherwise customary on some Polynesian islands.

A wooden block is called a tubular wooden drum or, in East Asian temple music, a wooden body that has slots of different depths on two sides and thus creates different pitches with an overall brighter and sharper sound.

Hollow slot drum

Tongtong , a hollow
slit drum in the east Javanese mountain town of Tosari near Gunung Bromo . 1900-1940. Such news drums were usually only allowed to be struck by their owner, usually the village head

They mainly consist of bamboo or hollowed out tree trunks. One example is the Balinese bamboo slit drum koprak , which consists of two long bamboo tubes that lie horizontally on racks and are played by several men standing by each tube. There is a straight slot in each of the individual bamboo segments. The ketuk bamboo slit drum of the Pakpak- Batak in Sumatra is played by two musicians with two mallets each.

The hollow slit drums also include various trough drums in Oceania, such as the medium-sized Lali , which has spread from Fiji in sea-going outrigger canoes with sails via Tonga to Samoa and other islands of Polynesia . The similar logo of Samoa has found a new role as a replacement for church bells since Christian proselytizing.

A rare small slit drum in northern Bangladesh is made of a bamboo internode with a narrow slit on one side. The player hits the tube while turning it in a circle with one hand, with two mallets that he holds like chopsticks in the other hand, thus producing different timbres. If a bamboo cane is split continuously from one side, a fork-shaped rattle is created , which is called in Assam toka and is played at Hindu annual festivals. With the Khasi in the neighboring Indian state of Meghalaya , a musician plays on three comparable, differently tuned bamboo slit drums, which are called kdor . A further development are the bamboo zithers cut in the same region as the chigring of the Garo .

Tongue slot drum

There are traditional and modern versions of the log drum with four to eight reeds. These are created by cutting parallel or wedge-shaped slots out of solid wood. The instrument produces different tones depending on the number of sound tongues. Like the xylophone, it belongs to the group of tuned idiophones, but has no fixed pitches. Tongue slot drums are prevalent in Africa, especially in cultures that use audio languages ​​to convey messages. The nkumvi of the Baluba in the Congo , for example, which produces four tones and is played with two padded mallets, can be heard within a radius of 30 kilometers. Another large tongue slot drum in the Congo in the shape of a buffalo or an antelope is called gugu .


Log drums beat the beat in popular music and coordinate the use of dancers. However, their use as a signaling instrument in the event of imminent danger or for a special occasion and for religious rituals is more specific. In western classical compositions, since the beginning of the 20th century, log drums from Asia were taken out of their cultural environment and added to the percussion as effect instruments. Sergei Prokofiev used slit drums in two compositions: in the 5th symphony from 1944 and the 6th symphony from 1945–1947. A high and a low temple block appear in Music for a Great City by Aaron Copland (1964), as well as in two works by Benjamin Britten from the 1960s. In Amores (1943), John Cage uses seven slit drums of different sizes. Occasionally, blocks of wood were played in jazz and ragtime . They can also be used in music education .

Some slit drums

  • Bantula - a slit drum made from a bamboo segment closed at both ends in the province of Bukidnon on the Philippine island of Mindanao . In the neighboring province of Maguindanao to the west , the instrument is called agung a bentong . According to its name, it is the cheaper variant of the large humpback gong agung . A bamboo segment cut into a half-shell on one side is called agung a tamlang .
  • Ekwe - small wooden log drums used by the Igbo in Nigeria to accompany songs.
  • Garamut - wooden slit drums in the music of New Guinea , which are ritually and as a newsdrummainly struck by men either with the tip of a stick or with the side. The slit drums on the Sepik in Papua New Guinea are particularly well known. Garamut is also the pidgin name of the tree species Vitex cofassus (English: New Guinea teak)used for construction.
  • Wooden fish - a wooden slit drum in the shape of a fish or spherical shape, which in China Muyu , in Japan as mokugyo in Vietnam as mo and in Korea as Moktak and appearing in Buddhist and Daoist is used rituals.
Log drum of the Yangere, a Banda people in Central Africa. Late 19th century.
Louvre location
  • Igogo are slit drums of the Budu people in the Orientale province in northeastern Congo. The large igogo deja is around three meters long including the tapering ends and produces two- pitched beats that can be used to transmit messages. The little igogo tade is beaten to accompany the dance.
  • Kabisa is a ritually used slit drum of the Diola in the Casamance region in Senegal . Their diameter is 80 to 120 centimeters with a length of 150 to 180 centimeters. The kabisa may only be beaten by men with their hands or sticks to announce outstanding events in the village. Otherwise, the kabisa is stored in a covered shrine, from which it can only be removed after a sacrifice.
  • Kentongan - Java , made of bronze in Hindu-Javanese times. Generally Indonesian log drums made of wood or bamboo as a signaling instrument in the villages.
  • Keprak - in Java a small box-shaped wooden slit drum that, in the same way as the metal plates kecrek, provides the rhythmic orientation in the dance drama ( wayang ) , accentuates the movements of the dancers or puppets and gives the musicians the signal to change tempo.
  • Kerantung - in Malaysia , serves as a call to prayer outside of the mosques
  • Kiringi , also Krin - wooden drum with three slots in Guinea
  • K'look - 50 cm long bamboo slit drum of the Khmu who live in southern China and northern Laos. It is kept in the community house and, when used as a call to a meeting, is hung on a tree.
  • Kontho , plural konthoing , a slit drum of the Limba speakers in Sierra Leone , with which the members of the Gbangbani secret society are summoned. If they are not ritually beaten together with the slotted drums nkali , they are usually stored near the village blacksmiths, where the Limba suspect magical powers, or they seem to lie carelessly in the bush on the way to the meeting place of the society.
  • Korro - a signal drum of the Dogon in Mali with a sound
  • Koturka , also kotor, is what the Hill Marias, a subgroup of the Central Indian Gonds in Madhya Pradesh , call a short slit drum from Gmelina arborea , which is carried around the neck on a string. The instrument is just as rare as the simple string instrument they play, kikir (similar to bana ) and the bamboo flute huluri (or mohri ).
  • Kulkul - Balinese log drum made of wood, which is hung in the temple area and serves as a signaling instrument for gatherings and ceremonies.
  • Kröng - a bamboo slit drum up to two meters long. It was used earlier, especially in Thai light music for New Year celebrations ( Songkran ) and in the classical Thai piphat ensemble to accompany shadow plays. Street musicians perform with her today.
  • Lali is a large log drum in Fiji that was previously struck to announce special events (deaths, start of war). Today the congregation is called to church with her. The smaller version, lali ni meke, has a small rectangular hole in the middle of the bottom and is played at parties. The musician sitting on the floor lays the otherwise unformed wood across his feet in order to generate the best response. In Samoa, the big one of the log drums, which are always played in pairs, is called tatasi and the small one is called talua .
  • Linga - played in groups of three or four instruments by the Bandalinda people of Central Africa
  • Nafa , wooden slit drum more than one meter long in West Polynesia ( Tonga , Samoa, Tuvalu ) with straight sides
  • Mo long - In Vietnam, bamboo slit drum is mo long in the same function as the wooden fish and is also used as a signaling instrument in case of theft, fire or other emergency. In the Buddhist liturgy in Vietnam the instrument is played together with bells and drums.
  • Mondo , also mbudikidi - narrow wooden slit drum in the Congo
  • Ogidigbo , mostly made of iroko wood, with the Edo in southwestern Nigeria , 60 to 70 centimeters in length and around 30 centimeters in diameter. The slot is about 5 centimeters wide and enlarges at both ends to a square opening about 10 centimeters on a side. The two slot edges are of different thicknesses. If you hit the thicker edge with the stick, the result is a higher tone compared to the other edge. Covering one of the square openings with your left hand creates a deeper tone. The ogidigbo is used as a signaling instrument, a particularly large model ( okha ) also used for ceremonies.
  • Godfather - asmall slit drum made of hardwood commonin Polynesia . It was previously used in the music of Tuvalu and on other Pacific islands for the rhythmic accompaniment of standing or sitting dances .
  • Ratahigi , the largest and deepest sounding of three slit drums on the Pacific island of Ambae (Republic of Vanuatu), sets the rhythm for the medium-sized simbegi and the small valagi in the dingidingi ensemble (east ambae) and in the tingitingi ensemble (west ambae ) . The Vanuatu archipelago was divided into three traditional cultural spheres from north to south: the northern group (including the Ambae) included large, lying slit drums, the central archipelago was characterized by the 6 to 7 meter high standing and some smaller lying slit drums, which are now museum-like Vanuatu Islands no slit drums occurred.
Godfather from Samoa
  • Teponaztli was a cult instrument of the Aztecs in Mexico . According to reports from the Spanish colonial period, the teponaztli was widespread in northern and central Mexico. Today's slit drums in Hidalgo are between 20 and 150 centimeters long. In the highlands of Chiapas , the slit drum t'ent'en is playedat an annual festival.
  • Tohere, also to'ere - a wooden slotted drum in a drum ensemble on Tahiti and the Cook Islands , which is struck with a hardwood stick . In the drum dance ( 'ura p'au ) she leads the dancer. The larger slit drum ka'ara is used together with a snail trumpet to accompany singing
  • Tongtong - Indonesian and Javanese for log drums made of wood or bamboo in Java
  • Tuddukat - the slit drum from the Indonesian island of Siberut is played by three or four people in an ensemble. It consists of a piece of trunk that lies on crossbars on the floor. The edge of the slit is struck in the middle with a hammer, giving the rhythm a semantic meaning. Brief messages can be transmitted ("someone has died", "the house is on fire" ...)

Sound boards

Sound boards are not slit drums, but mostly long wooden boards struck with a hammer or a flexible rod, which are suspended on ropes or carried by a person. They are called semantron in Greek and are used as prayer bells in Orthodox Eastern European monasteries. Christians in Arab countries called these sound boards, which have now disappeared there, naqus .


Web links

Commons : Log Drums  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Konyak Naga tribe musical instrument Log drum in North East India. Youtube video
  2. Curt Sachs : Spirit and Becoming the Musical Instruments. (1928) Frits AM Knuf, Hilversum 1965, p. 44
  3. Eric Kjellgren: From Fanla to New York and back: recovering the authorship and iconography of a slit drum from Ambrym Island, Vanuatu. In: Journal of Museum Ethnography , No. 17, Pacific Ethnography, Politics and Museums, 2005, pp. 118–129, here pp. 119f
  4. ^ Paul Collaer: Southeast Asia. (Werner Bachmann (Hrsg.): Music history in pictures . Volume I: Musikethnologie . Delivery 3) Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1979, p. 92
  5. ^ MGG, Col. 1106
  6. ^ Roger Blench: Musical instruments of Northeast India. Classification, distribution, history and vernacular names. ( Memento of March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF file; 4.85 MB) Cambridge, December 2011, p. 12f
  7. ^ MGG, Col. 1108
  8. ^ Hans Brandeis: Music and Dance of the Bukidnon of Mindanao - A Short Introduction. ( Memento from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Filipino Association of Berlin, 1993
  9. Corazon Canave-Dioquino, Ramon P. Santos, Jose Maceda: The Philippines. In: Terry E. Miller, Sean Williams (Eds.): The Garland handbook of Southeast Asian music. Routledge, New York 2008, p. 442
  10. ^ Adrienne Kaeppler, Don Niles: The Music and Dance of New Guinea. In: JW Love, Adrienne Kaeppler (Ed.): The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Australia and the Pacific Islands. Vol. 9. Routledge, New York 1998, p. 475
  11. Igogo . In: Laurence Libin (Ed.): The Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. Vol. 3, Oxford University Press, Oxford / New York 2014, p. 10
  12. ^ Lucy Durán, David Font-Navarrete: Kabisa. In: Laurence Libin (Ed.): The Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. Vol. 3, Oxford University Press, Oxford / New York 2014, p. 94
  13. Slit Gong (Kentongan). The Metropolitan Museum of Art (illustration of a 13th century East Javanese bronze slit drum)
  14. ^ Miller, Williams (ed.): The Garland handbook of Southeast Asian music. P. 364
  15. Hakan Lundström and Damrong Tayanin: Kammu Gongs and Drums (II). The Long Wooden Drums and Other Drums. Asian Folklore Studies Vol. XL-2, 1981, pp. 173-189
  16. WA Hart: Wood Carving of the Limba of Sierra Leone. In: African Arts , Vol. 23, No. 1, November 1989, pp. 44-53, here p. 51
  17. ^ S. K Jain: Wooden Musical Instruments of the Gonds of Central India. In: Ethnomusicology, Vol. 9, No. 1, January 1965, pp. 39–42, here p. 39
  18. ^ Raymond F. Kennedy: Music of Oceania. In: Music Educators Journal, Vol. 59, No. 2 (Music in World Cultures) October 1972, pp. 59–72, here p. 61
  19. ^ Richard Moyle: Samoan Musical Instruments. In Ethnomusicology , Vol. 18, No. 1; January 1974, pp. 57-74, here p. 59
  20. Terry E. Miller, Sean Williams (Eds.): The Garland handbook of Southeast Asian music. Routledge, New York 2008, pp. 282, 456
  21. ^ Åke Norborg: Musical instruments of the Bini in southwest Nigeria. In: Erich Stockmann (Ed.): Music cultures in Africa. Verlag Neue Musik, Berlin 1987, p. 201
  22. ^ Raymond Ammann: Sounds of Secrets: Field Notes on Ritual Music and Musical Instruments on the Islands of Vanuatu. (Sound Culture Studies) LIT Verlag, Münster 2012, p. 243
  23. ^ Peter Crowe: Vanuatu (Nouvelles-Hébrides / New Hebrides). Singsing Danis Kastom. Musiques coutumières / Custom Music. AIMP XXXIV (CD-796) 1994, Booklet, pp. 20, 22
  24. ^ Paul Collaer: Music history in pictures. Volume I: Ethnic Music. Delivery 2: America. Eskimo and Native American people. Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1966, p. 39
  25. ^ Mark Howell: Concerning the Origin and Dissemination of the Mesoamerican Slit-Drum. In: Music in Art , Vol. 28, No. 1/2, spring – autumn 2003, pp. 45–54, here p. 46
  26. Patrick O'Reilly: Dancing Tahiti. (Dossier 22) Nouvelles éditions latines, Paris 1977, p. 23
  27. ^ Miller, Williams (ed.): The Garland handbook of Southeast Asian music. P. 342