African musical instruments include a wide variety of drums and just today we will talk about a drum that is at the heart of African cultures, the ancestor of percussion instruments, also known as the talking drum named for the faculty that the musician has or griots, African storytellers, to make him «speak.»

The Tama is an African drum native to West Africa, particularly Mali and Senegal. It is made from a single piece of hollow wood carved by hand, cylindrical in shape and narrower in the center. At each of the two ends there is a patch made of goatskin. Both heads are joined by strings, so that as they are tightened more or less, the sound will be more or less sharp.

Many African languages ​​are “tonal”: each syllable of a word corresponds to a musical tone, and when this drum is played, the tones and rhythms of each word are repeated in it. This is why the talking drum plays an important role in West African culture, as it is used to convey important messages, invite ceremonial dance, and convey important life lessons.

The way of playing it varies according to the tonal qualities of each language. There is a clear difference in playing style between the predominantly Fulani and Mande-speaking western areas (Senegal, Gambia, western Mali, and Guinea) and the traditionally non-Mande populations further east (eastern Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Chad and Nigeria)

How to touch it?

It is held under the arm and struck with a hammer-shaped drumstick. To sharpen the tonality of the drum beat, pressure is exerted on the leather strings that run lengthwise along the sides, thereby tightening the drum skin.