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

Article Updated

Traditional African Drums

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 of my album (tracks #01 to #10).

January 2023: Added SoundCloud embeds. You can listen to the drum sounds while reading.

Types of West African Drums

1. Djembe Drum

African djembe drum
Picture of an African Djembe Drum
The sound of African djembe drums

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.

The drumming style is typically very fast, and it is played with bare hands.

It has a big drum head and a small body and bottom.

Djembe Way Of Playing
Picture of 2 people playing drums

This specific shape allows the drummers to play it and hold it in-between their legs.

A strap can be used if the drum is too big for you (like the yellow strap in the picture).

2. Udu Drum

African udu drum
Picture of an African Udu Drum
The sound of African udu drums 1
The sound of African udu drums 2

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 objects 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.

3. Bowl Drum (Kettle Drum)

African bowl drum
Picture of an African Bowl Drum or Kettle Drum
The sound of African bowl drums

The Bowl (or Kettle) drum originates from West Africa.

This percussion instrument 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.

4. Talking Drum

African talking drum
Picture of an African Talking Drum
The sound of African talking drums

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.

5. Bata Drum

African bata drums
Picture of 3 African Bata Drums
The sound of African bata drums

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, making it possible to hit both sides of the drum with both hands at the same time.

6. Log Drum

African log drum
Picture of 2 African Log Drums (carved opening visible on the right one)
The sound of African log drums

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.

7. Ewe Drums

African ewe drums
Picture of an African Ewe Drum EnsembleCelestinesucess, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
The sound of an African Ewe drum ensemble

The Ewe drums, from the Ewe tribe, are an ensemble of drums from West Africa, Ghana.

Atsimevus and Kidis were part of the Ewe drum ensemble that I used (see 8. Atsimevu Drum and 9. Kidi Drum below).

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

8. Atsimevu Drum

The sound of African atsimevu drums

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.

9. Kidi Drum

The sound of African kidi drums

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.

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, 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. You can find some of the same artists as in my other playlist.

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

You can find all my curated playlists on this page.