Happy Thanksgiving

(I posted this last year but it’s still appropriate for the holiday.) As Thanksgiving approaches I wanted to share a drum-related post on the subject. We’ve discussed many different kinds of historical and cultural drums in the past. Today, in keeping with the holiday, I want to talk about Native American drums. Those of you that have ever watched a sacred ceremony or attended a pow-wow know that drums are the driving beat behind the dancing.

Different tribes have different traditions about the drum although the construction remains the same. In most of the tribes drums are constructed out of hollowed out logs that have finely tanned buckskin or elkskin stretched across one of the openings. Different sized logs make different kinds of sounds.

Traditionally Native American drums are large, two to three feet in diameter, and they are played communally by groups of men who stand around them in a circle. In addition to large log drums Native Americans also play hand-held drums called tom-toms that are beat with sticks or the hand. Native American drummers often decorate these drums with bright paint and feathers. Surprisingly the term “tom-tom” did not come from the Native American language. It came from an old British word for a child’s drum toy.

There are many different kinds of Native American drums. There are the Skin Drum, Frame Drum, Log Drum, Water Drum and Square Drum. These drums are used for ceremonial purposes and to communicate. Some tribes worship their drums, naming them and treating them like they were alive. This is similar to the ways that musicians around the world bond with their musical instruments, often attributing them with names and personalities.

I’m going to take time away from my instrument and spend some sacred time with my family. I recommend that you do the same. This will be my last post before Thanksgiving. I’ll be back later that week stuffed and ready to go. Until then, I hope that you have a blessed holiday.

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