The Akan Drum: An Instrument for Conversation

by Benjamina Efua Dadzie and Kwan Pa

Akan drum, collected in Virginia in ca. 1730, brought to England upon the request of Sir Hans Sloane. © 2020 The Trustees of the British Museum.

The Akan drum was discussed by Neil McGregor in his BBC’s History of the World in a 100 Objects. It was placed in the context of forced migration and music produced by enslaved people. It is described as being part of a chief’s court’s music production, with the assumption that it was taken on a slave ship, but not by a slave. This instrument was a useful tool of control and dehumanisation, to ensure enslaved people were kept fit for their dehumanisation.

In this podcast, the Akan drum is discussed in the context of everyday life, as a tool for social engagement, in peace and war time, at a palm wine joint and at a funeral.
Benjamina talks with Asah, the leader of Kwan Pa, an Akan music band of the palm-wine music genre. They start the conversation by exploring the name for the word ‘drum’ in the Akan language and the different types of drums, and some of the context within which the Akan drum operated in the past and how it has changed in the present.

The conversation is in the Akan language of Twi.


This podcast was presented, produced and edited by Benjamina Efua Dadzie. The intro and outro music, an ensemble of Kpanlogo drum (female and male), Djembe drum, Gome drum (Frame drum), Kwadum drum (from ‘Kete’ ensemble), Twin bell (Dawuta) and Rattle (Ntorwa), was produced by Kwan Pa for 100 Histories of 100 Worlds in 1 Object.

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