2. Naizungwe Drums – progress report 1

Our efforts to revive the Naizungwe drums have been well underway. (If you haven’t read our introduction to the project, do so  here).

A drum maker has been contacted, the correct trees have been sourced and cut down, the logs have been hollowed out and the skins have been formed.

One of the early milestones was finding a tree out of which to craft the largest of the drums, no trivial task given the size and type of tree required. Here is our first video, James Isabirye talking about the tree and introducing the project:

The lead drum maker is called Muhamudu Kaziba (in the left of the video above).

He comes from a famous family of drum makers from Kalalu village, Buyanga sub country, Bugweri County in Iganga district. Muhamudu was taught how to make drums by two of his uncles who shared their wisdom and experience with him, and tells us that ever since he was young, his relatives and neighbours have all been drum makers. This begins to make sense when he says that one drum offers 54 different jobs: cutting the tree, shaping the trunks, putting cow dung on frames, drying skins, making strings etc. For the 24 individual drums that we are making, the amount of work quickly adds up.

Why are we making 24 drums? James answers:

“The set we are making comprises 24 drums of big, small, medium and small sizes. We decided to make many because we would like to have enough drums for training a new generation of players. However, the basic number includes:

  • 1 large Uganda drum (played with short heavy beaters)
  • 3 smaller drums (played with long curved sticks)
  • 1 medium drum (played with sticks)
  • 1 long drum (ngalabi – hand-beaten)

All together, 6 drums. Therefore, we are making four sets of naizungwe drums mainly to facilitate learning.”

Below is a video documenting the progress of the drums thus far.

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