African Kpanlogo Drums

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From the tribes of Ghana, West Africa, the traditional Kpanlogo drum is associated with Kpanlogo music and dance of the Ga and Ewe tribes. The Kpanlogo is a member of the membranophone, or drum-head covered shell or vibrating stretched membrane, family of musical instruments.

The Kpanlogo ensemble consists of a variety of percussion instruments including the Kpanlogo in a variety of sizes, the Djembe, and dunun drums, along with shekeres (shakers), metal chimes. and cowbell.

The Kpanlogo drum head is usually made from antelope skin rawhide, but may also be made of cow, or less often, goatskin. Shaved antelope and cow skin heads sound nearly identical, and provide for a thick, strong drumming surface. The skin is tightened and tuned through the use of six wooden pegs. Through vigorous playing, tonal pitch may drop slightly. The tuning pegs allow for easy correction through simple tapping of the pegs with a rubber, wood, or leather (NEVER metal!) mallet until the desired pitch is achieved.

The appearance of the Kpanlogo drum is very similar to that of the Conga drum. The Kpanlogo shell is carved from a single piece of wood, such as the sustainably harvested Tweneboa, or schwenoha wood. Each drum has detailed symbols, or adinkra, carved into the sides. Adinkra are visual representations of social, religious, and moral attitudes and beliefs, and add a unique beauty to each drum.

It can be played using any techniques similar to that of Conga or Djembe Drums. Using their traditional technique, the Ewe of Ghana developed five variations of distinct sound.

1. Bass – While holding the fingers firmly close together, with palms slightly cupped, bounce off the center of the head

2. Tone – Strike the head with the index finger. At the same time, allow the 3rd knuckle to make contact with the rim of the drum

3. Slap – Again, with firm fingers, strike the drum head, while the top of the palm makes contact with the rim

4. Mute – Using firm finger tips, strike the drum, producing a “dead” sound without a tone

5. Muted Slap – Create a high pitched crack by placing the open palm of one hand on the drum head and “slap” it with the other hand

The Kpanlogo is NOT designed to be played with beaters or sticks. Though the antelope hide used for the drum head is very tough, using objects to strike your drum may cause damage to the head.

Maintaining the condition of your Kpanlogo takes little effort on your part. Both head and body may easily be cleaned using a damp (NEVER WET!) cloth. The oils from your hands, transferred while playing, should be adequate to keep the drum head flexible. DO NOT use commercial cleaning products on either the head or body of your drum, as this may result in damage to the skin head or finish of the body.

If the drum head does become excessively dry, for instance, if used infrequently over long periods of time, use a VERY LIGHT dressing of olive, or other vegetable oil. Be fastidious in wiping away ANY excess, and be sure to remove any dressing that may drip on to the drum body. With proper usage and care, your Kpanlogo Drum should last for a lifetime of drumming pleasure!


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