African Poems

Oral Poetry from Africa

Tag: Talking Drum

The Adae Kese Festival

This is held annually in Kumasi as the culmination of the Ashante year, and draws a vast audience. The burial grounds of chiefs are swept clean along with family houses, and a sheep is sacrificed to the Golden Stool, the Ashante royal throne. Among other ceremonies, the paramount ruler is carried in procession through the streets of Kumasi. While the crowds are waiting for him to appear, the following commentary is broadcast on the talking drums.

Oh, Divine Drummer,
I am scarcely awake and have risen up…

The Drum-History of Mampon

Asante, the dialect of Akan spoken in the Ashanti region of Ghana, is a tonal language, meaning roughly that the intonation of a word will change its meaning, even if the pronunciation is otherwise the same. One consequence is that verbal messages can be conveyed by highly skilled drumming, as in the following example. What the drummer conveys are the tones, the number of syllables and the punctuation of phrases. The actual vowels and consonants cannot be transmitted. This sets certain conditions. To be comprehensible, a drum message will contain many stock phrases, and a good deal of repetition…

African Poems