African Instruments

Camilla Dodson




“A village without music is a dead village” – African proverb


In this presentation, which I have previously given at OASIS and other venues in Albuquerque with great success, I will describe the role of music in traditional African society using the common touchstone of drumming.  Drums are probably the earliest musical instrument, being common in concept to all cultures.  In Africa, the role of music in society – for communication, ceremony, oral history, spirituality, and entertainment – is so fundamental that many African languages have no word for ‘music’.  It is simply an ever-present part of life, which imparts a strong sense of tribal unity.  African music is nearly always coupled with other arts, such as poetry, storytelling, or dance, and reveals cultural depths which are otherwise difficult for outsiders to appreciate.


This topic is of interest to anyone who loves music, or is interested in how other cultures view the world.  I am appending an outline of the presentation material, and a copy of my resume, which describes how I was born into the African musical tradition as a traditional musician and modern teacher in Lesotho.  My presentation is primarily based on oral history and my accumulated knowledge and experience, rather than simply being extracted from a range of other people’s source materials.  ‘African Instruments’ can be largely subsidized by the New Mexico Humanities Council, but sessions must be scheduled 2-3 months in advance to receive such support. 


African Instruments – Outline

·               The drum as the basis of music

·               Role of drums in African cultures

·               Types of African drums

·               How traditional drums were made

·               Why different drums sound different – sound from shape

·               How you get different sounds from a given drum – sound from technique

·               Participation – audience members play a range of African drums

·               Performance – audience play an ensemble of African drums together


Djembe Congas Talking Drum

				Djembe			Congas			Talking Drum 


Tubanos Kalimba Shakers

				Tubanos			Kalimba			Shakers