Glossary of Instruments

Afuche or Afoxe ( ah foo chay or  ah foh shay) is a Brazilian instrument. Originally a gourd or coconut carved with grooves and covered with a net of beads, it is twisted, shaken and tapped with the hands and fingers. Modern versions are made of plastic or metal. Afoxe has also come to mean a particular Carnaval rhythm derived from AfroBrazilian religion as well as the group of people playing, dancing and singing the rhythm

Agogo (ago go) is the Brazilian and Nigerian name for the hand held double bell which is played with a stick or piece of iron. In Nigerian rhythms it typically plays foundation patterns, whereas in Brazilian Samba music it has hundreds of variations and is often a solo voice. 

Apito (ah pee toh) is the Portuguese word for the whistle which is used to give directions and signals to the bateria and dancers in Brazilian music. 

Ashiko (ah shee ko) is a Nigerian hand drum. Nigerian superstar O.J. Ekemode wrote a tune called Ashiko and said that it mean “the world of time” in his language, Yoruba. The name has been used in the US to refer to any cone shaped, single headed hand drum. Ashiko like drums can be found in Cuba, Haiti, Brazil and US 

Atabaques (ah tah bah keys) are a set of three single headed Brazilian hand and stick drums made of staves like a barrel. They are similar to Cuban Tumbadoras (congas) and are used primarily in religious ceremonies of the Candomble (kan dohm bley) and in the martial art Capoeira. (Kah poh eih rah) 

Axatse (a haht tse) is a gourd rattle from Ghana, West Africa. It is usually smaller than Cuban or Nigerian shekere (see below) and is played by striking it on the palms and thighs. 

Bata (bah ta ) is the name of a set of drums originating in Yorubaland (Nigeria) and found primarily in Cuba. Since the 1950’s they have spread around the world and are now common in the USA. In Nigeria five or more drums are used as a set and in Cuba and the rest of the world three drums are used. Their primary function is to call the Orisha (deities of West African origin) at religious ceremonies involving sacrifice, dancing, singing and spirit possession. Participants receive blessings and consultations with the Orisha. Bata drums are now common in Salsa and Latin Jazz.

Bateria (bah teh ree ahh) is the Portuguese and Spanish word for battery, a collection of cells. It refers to both the common electrical device as well as a collection of drums. Bateria means both the drum set played by one person as well as the drum ensemble containing many players. 

Bendir (ben deahr) is a single headed Moroccan frame drum with a gut snare on the inside. Bendirs come in several sizes and are played with the fingers and hands. 

Berimbau (bed im baw) is a Brazilian musical bow with gourd resonator that originates in Angola Africa. It is used in the martial art form Capoeira. 

Bombo (bohm boh) is the Spanish word for bass drum. There are many kinds of bombos. In Cuban folklore it usually refers to the double headed Carnaval bass drum used in the Conga rhythm as well as the main accents associated with it. 

Bongo (bawn goh) is the name of a dance in parts of the Caribbean. It is also the name of a set of single headed Cuban drums approximately six and eight inches in diameter and six inches tall which are attached to each other. They are usually held between the knees while seated and are played with a combination of finger and hand techniques. Bongos have been used in many forms of American and other music. 

Box drum is a general name for a wooden instrument also known as slit drum, tongue drum or osi drum. It is essentially a box with several slits of different lengths cut in the top. It is played with soft mallets and if tuned well, can have a very pleasing melodic sound. 

Caixa / Tarol (Kye sha / tah roll) are names for different kinds of snare drums used in the Brazilian bateria. These modern, high pitched versions are derived from the colonial military marching band

Cajon (cah hon) is a Spanish word for ” box” and in some cases “drawer.” In Cuban music it refers to a set of wooden box drums originally used to play Rumba Yambu and now incorporated into many other styles. A thin wooden panel forms the “skin.” The bass cajon is large enough to sit on and is played with the palm, fist and fingers. It was originally a crate from shipping cod fish in Havana. The middle drum is played with spoons and was originally a box from church candles. The solo drum started as a desk drawer but has evolved into a specialized box made for this purpose. A more recent contribution to the cajon family is a tall, tapered box resembling a square ashiko. Another is the” batajon” an innovative cajon with two heads like a bata drum.

Campana (kahm pah nah) literally means “bell” in Spanish. In Cuban music it refers to the Bongo players hand bell or Timbale players mounted bell. 

    
Caxixi (kah she she) is a Brazilian basket rattle made of reeds and filled with sea shells. It is often used together with the berimbau in the martial art Capoeira. 

Clave (kla veh) is a set of hardwood sticks used to play a guideline rhythm in Cuban music. The term also refers to the rhythm pattern itself, and in the largest sense, means the balance of rhythmic conversations in the overall music/dance. Clave Consciousness CD 

Conga (kong gah) is the name of a Carnaval rhythm and dance from Cuba. In the US, the word is commonly used to refer to a set of single headed Cuban drums called Tumbadoras (toom bah dohr rahs) which are often used in that dance, and now in many forms of American music. 

Congo (kong go) is a region in Central Africa. People from this area were brought to the new world as slaves. Their descendants have maintained Congo culture in several parts of the Americas including Haiti, Brazil, Jamaica, Cuba and the US 

Cuica (kwee ka) is a Brazilian hand held friction drum which can make animal like sounds. It is a typical voice in the samba. The player rubs a damp cloth on a thin stick attached drum skin inside the shell, causing it to vibrate. By pressing the other hand on the outside of the head, the pitch can be changed. 

Djembe or Jimbe (jem beh) is a goblet shaped hand drum with one skin of goat or antelope hide. It originates in Mali and Guinea West Africa. The djembe can produce extremely high as well as deep bass sounds. The djembe sounds best a hot, relatively dry environment. 

Dumbec (doum beck) is the common name for the typical Middle Eastern hand and finger drum properly know as “darbuka” (dar boo kah). The dumbec is single headed, goblet shaped and played horizontally, usually in the players lap. The dumbec sounds best in a dry environment. 

Dunun (dou nun) also know as djun djun and dun dun are a set of three straight sided bass drums that form the bass line of the djembe orchestra. The smallest is called kenkeni, the middle one is sangban and the largest is called dununba. They each have a cow skin head on both ends, and often have a metal bell attached to the side. They are played with two sticks or with one stick and a metal striker on the bell. Dunun are both carried and played horizontally and rested on the ground and played vertically. 

Dun dun (Doun doun) is also the name of a family of Yoruba talking drums from Nigeria. The largest one is called Iya Ilu which mean mother drum. The Dun dun is played with a curved stick and sometime the fingers of the opposite hand. The wooden shell is hourglass shaped with thongs connecting the two skins. The drummer can press the thongs close to the shell to increases the pressure on the skin, changing the pitch of the drum. 

Dunno (doo noh) is a Ghanaian name for the hourglass talking drum. (See dun dun) 

Flexitone is a sound effect instruments made of a small sheet of metal. When struck or bowed, it produces a high pitched sound which can be changed by bending the metal. 

Gankogui (gahn ko gwee) is a Ghanaian hand held iron bell which is played with a stick of wood or piece of iron. Single bells are considered male and double bells female, as the double resemble a mother with a baby on her back. Gankogui come in three sizes and can be used to play ensemble rhythms like drums. 

Ganza (gahn za) is a Brazilian tube shaker, usually made of metal and filled with small rocks or metal shot. Ganza playing looks simple at first, however it requires much strength and stamina and can involve the whole body. 

Guiro (wee roh) is the Spanish word for “gourd”, a plant in the squash family. The gourd is dried and cleaned and can be used for many things, including musical instruments. The most common are the Cuban and Puerto Rican scratcher. In Cuba, guiro can also mean shekere, as well as a rhythm played on three shekeres used in religious ceremonies.

Kaganu (kah gah nu) is a single headed drum of the Eve people of Ghana. It is approximately 18 inches tall, has one 6 inch diameter head and an open bottom. Kaganu is struck with two thin sticks and usually plays one of the shortest repeating patterns of the ensemble. It is considered the “child drum” of the Eve drum family. The combination of Axatse, Gankogui and Kaganu form the rhythmic ground in Eve music. 

Kalimba (kah limb bah) is a word which means “little music” in a Central African language. Kalimba is often used to refer to a family small African instruments commonly known as a “thumb pianos”. Each language group has its own name for the instrument such as “Mbira”, “Sansa” or “Likembe”. 

Kidi ( kee dee) is the “elder brother” of Kaganu in the Eve drum ensemble. It is approximately 18 inches tall with a closed bottom and has a head of antelope skin about 8 inches in diameter. It is played with sticks and like other tropical forest drums, requires a bit of moisture to sound correct. 

Maracas (mar ah kahs) are a pair of shakers with the beads inside. They can be made of coconuts, wood, gourd or other plant materials. Venezuelan and Cuban musicians have developed maraca playing to a high art. 

Ngoma (ngoh mah) is a Central and Southern African word which means “drum” and in some cases, a ceremony using drums. The Congolese ngoma is a straight sided, single headed hand drum. It is carved from a balsa like wood and skinned with antelope hide held in place with palm thorns. Congolese ngoma often have feet carved at the bottom of the drum to create air space to let the bass sound out. 

Pandeiro (pun day roh) is the Brazilian tambourine. It has a tunable skin and jingles which are muffled in comparison to an American tamborine. Brazilian sambistas (musician/dancers) have developed pandeiro playing and juggling to a very high level. The pandeiro is the symbol of Brazilian Carnaval culture. 

Quijada (key hahd ah) is a dried jawbone of a donkey. When struck, the teeth rattle producing a buzzing sound. A modern version called the vibra-slap is made of metal and wood and was a favorite sound effect in 1970s and early 1980s Latin Jazz and Rock, and Soul music. 

Rainstick is an ancient instrument originally made of a dried cactus stalk with the spines shoved inside and filled with a handful of pebbles or sea shells. When tipped, the pebbles slowly bounce and fall through the spines creating a watery sound. 

Reco reco (heckoh heckoh) is the Brazilian name for a rasp or scratcher which may be made from many materials, including metal, bamboo, gourd, or wood. In Northeastern Brazil, craftsmen/musician have developed reco reco making and playing to a high level. 

Repinique or Repique (Heh pin ee key or Heh peek) is a stick or stick and hand drum played in the Brazilian music. It is typically high pitched and gives calls and directions to the bateria and dancers. It has a plastic head on both ends. 

Shekere (sheh keh reh) is the Nigerian Yoruba name for the gourd instrument with a net of beads strung around it. It is played by shaking the beads and striking the gourd. The word is spelled Xekere in Brazilian Portuguese (because “x” is pronounced “sh”.) In Cuban Spanish it is often spelled Chekere and pronounced “Chek keh reh”. 

Sogo (soh goh) is the “elder brother” of kidi. It is approximately 24 inches high, has a closed bottom and a wide belly. The single antelope head is about 10 inches in diameter and is played with hands and sticks. Sogo can be a lead drum, converse with other lead drums, or converse and harmonize with kidi. 

Surdo (soor du) is a Brazilian double headed bass drum carried in parades and played with a mallet and one hand, or two mallets. Surdos come in various sizes including 14 X 20 , 16 X 20 , 20 X 20 20 X 24 and 24 X 24. Surdos are made with a metal or thin wood shell and originally had goat skin heads. Plastic heads are common now and many groups from Bahia now put a layer of naugahide or split cowhide over the plastic, producing a more low end sound.

Tamborim (tom bour eem) is a single headed, hand held, high pitched stick drum played in Brazilian music. It about 6 inches in diameter and does not have jingles. In the Carnaval music, the tamborims play designs which punctuate the vocals. 

Tar (tarh) is a Middle Eastern frame drum. It has a single goat skin head on a hoop whose diameter is greater than its depth. Tars are played with hands and fingers. 

Timba  / Timbal / Timbau (cheem ba / chim bahl / chim baw) is a Brazilian single headed hand drum approximately 42 inches tall. The shell is wood or metal and is quite light for it’s size. They are often skinned with a plastic head about 12 inches in diameter and tuned very tightly, giving a djembe like sound. Timbas have been popularized by the group “Timbalada”. 

Timbales (tim bah leys) are a set of two, single headed, mounted stick drums which originate in Cuban music. They were developed in the late 1800s as a replacement for European timpani and have since be used in Rock, Reggae and Jazz and other music. One drum of the set is usually tuned to a very high pitch. 

Waterphone is unique instrument created in the 1970s in California. It is a metal container with metal rods welded to it which can be bowed or struck. It contains water which when moved, modulates the sound. The sound it produces is somewhat similar to whale calls. Waterphone HomePage

Copyright 1998 PulseWave Percussion