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About These Drums
Timber – Twenaboa
Skin – Calf
The atumpan is the main talking drum of the Akan people. It is the most favoured instrument to play the bass part to accompany dancing. It is played in pairs, usually by a master drummer using two angular sticks.
The two atumpan drums are tuned to each other. The lowest tone is identified with the mother and symbolizes woman. The highest tone is identified with man. These two sounds are needed to send signals from one village to another. The Akan language is a bitonal language with a middle tone. The atumpan is therefore ideally suited to send messages.
The sound of the drums is determined by the size of the drum: the larger the drum, the larger the membrane and the lower the sound. The atumpan is played with two wooden sticks and the membrane can also be damped with the palm of the hand or struck with the fingers. It is traditionally played by a master drummer (Dagomba ‘Akrama‘). Traditionally the drums are adorned with decorative elements derived from adinkra symbolism, e.g. Gye Nyame, Afenan, Adwo, Wawa aba and Sankofa. Some drums are covered with a fabric with geometric figures (diamonds and rectangles) and others are painted with blue or grey paint. In some the natural colour of the wood has been preserved.