Types of African Drums with Pictures, Names, Facts & Sounds

Traditional African Drums

Article Updated: 2022-07-16

In this article you will find a list of some of the most common, authentic and traditional drums played by the tribes of Africa. For each type of drum, its name, a picture and a description is provided; as well as a sound recording.

All songs/beats are part of the album Tribal Drums by Demfire Creation, a massive multi-cultural tribal drumming album with a total of 50 songs covering most of the World. This article will focus on all different kinds of African drums that are part of the African tribal drum section.

Types of West African Drums

African Djembe Drum
An African Djembe Drum

1. Djembe Drum

The Djembe is a musical instrument from West Africa and originated from the Malian Empire. It is a percussion instrument and usually the first drum that comes to mind when talking about African drums. It has a big drum head and a small body and bottom.

This specific shape allows the drummers to play it and hold it in between their legs. It is played bare hands. The drumming style is usually very fast.

What do Djembe Drums Sound Like?

This is what the African Djembe sounds like:

Djembe Drum - African Tribal Music

African Udu Drum
An African Udu Drum

2. Udu Drum

The Udu is a musical instrument from West Africa, Nigeria. It is a percussion instrument and looks like a clay pot. It has a hole at the top and in the biggest part of the pot. It was originally used for ceremonial purposes.

It produces sound with its own vibrations after being hit by the drummers. It can be hit by hand or with other objets like wooden or metal sticks, each one producing an unique sound. The holes can be covered by hand to change the pitch of the sound.

What do Udu Drums Sound Like?

This is what two different African Udus sound like:

Udu Drum - Traditional African Drums

Nigerian Drum - West African Drumming

African Bowl Drum
An African Bowl Drum or Kettle Drum

3. Bowl Drum (Kettle Drum)

The Bowl (or Kettle) drum originates from West Africa. It is a percussion instrument and got its name from its shape: a bowl-shaped hand drum.

It is a small drum that can be carried around and usually played with one hand only. Two of them can be played at the same time using one hand on each one. The head of the drum is made of animal skin, usually goat skin. The bottom of the drum is closed and made of traditional wood.

What do Bowl Drums Sound Like?

This is what African Bowls sound like:

Bowl Drum - African Drums

African Talking Drum
An African Talking Drum

4. Talking Drum

The Talking drum is an instrument from West Africa. It has a big head and a big bottom both connected by cords while the middle is thinner, like an hourglass.

They are called "Talking" because the drummers are able to make then talk. The cords purpose is to mimic the human vocal cords. This makes it possible to send a custom message very far, like telling village hunters to come back or communicate between villages if there is an emergency.

What do Talking Drums Sound Like?

This is what African Talking Drums sound like:

Talking Drum - West African Drums

African Bata Drums
3 African Bata Drums

5. Bata Drum

The Batas are a drum set from the Yoruba people in West Africa, Nigeria. Each one of these drums has two heads, a large one and a small one.

The large head produces low pitch sounds, and the small head produces high pitch sounds. The drummers can play them on their hips to be able to hit both sides of the drum with both hands at the same time.

What do Bata Drums Sound Like?

This is what African Batas sound like:

Bata Drums - African Drum Music

African Log Drum
2 African Log Drums (carved opening visible on the right one)

6. Log Drum

The Log drum is an African wooden drum. The original ones were big logs with the inside carved and a single long opening at the top.

More variants exist: logs with an H carved opening; smaller logs that can be hand carried; logs that have been shaped like an animal. The log can produce a sound after behind hit because it's hollow, this sound is unique depending on the type of opening, the type of wood and the size.

What do Log Drums Sound Like?

This is what African Log Drums sound like:

Log Drum - African Wood Drums

African Ewe Drums
An African Ewe Drum EnsembleCelestinesucess, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

7. Ewe Drums

The Ewe drums, from the Ewe tribe, are an ensemble of drums from West Africa, Ghana. Atsimevus and Kidis were part of the drum ensemble that I used (see Atsimevu Drum and Kidi Drum below).

Other Ewe drum sets can include other types of drums and percussions.

What do Ewe Drums Sound Like?

This is what African Ewe Drums sound like:

Ewe Drums - African Drum Ensemble

8. Atsimevu Drum

The Atsimevu drum is an instrument part of the Ewe Drum Ensemble from West Africa, Ghana. It has a small head, a big body and a small bottom.

The head of the drum is made of animal skin, usually deer or antelope. The body of the drum is made of traditional wood. Metal rings are sometimes used around the wood. It is played being inclined on a support at about 45° using usually one hand and a stick.

What do Atsimevu Drums Sound Like?

This is what the African Atsimevu sounds like:

Atsimevu Drum - Small African Drums

9. Kidi Drum

The Kidi is also an percussion instrument part of the Ewe Drum Ensemble from West Africa, Ghana. It looks like a squished version of the Atsimevu (about 1/3 of its size).

Deer or antelope animal skin is also usually used for the head and metal rings are sometimes used around the wooden drum body.

What do Kidi Drums Sound Like?

This is what the African Kidi sounds like:

African Percussion - Kidi Drum & African Shaker

Traditional African Drums: Curated Playlists

Tribal Drums

The Tribal genre is African dominated. This curated playlist features drum music from all over the World with a majority of it being from Africa.

Some artists that you'll find include: James Asher, Demfire Creation, Guem, Byron Metcalf, Soukouss Ta, Godfrey Mgcina, All Star African Drum Ensemble & a lot more.

[~60 songs] [~2h30 duration] [Listen to it on Spotify]

African Drums

If you are looking for a 100% African music playlist, this is my traditional African drums playlist.

This playlist doesn't have a cap and I'm adding exactly 5 songs per artist.

[80+ songs] [5 by 5 format] [4h+ duration] [Listen to it on Spotify]

You can find all my curated playlists on this page.

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