Garifuna drummers, and about Garifuna Drums
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September 19, 2021

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Banquitas House of Culture
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Garifuna drummers, and about Garifuna Drums

Garifuna music is heavily dependent on the tenor drum (Primero) and bass drum (Segunda) depending on the nature of the gathering. These drums (Garawoun) are typically made of dug-out hardwood such as mahogany, mayflower or cedar and covered with animal skin such as wild pig, deer, cow or sheep. The difference between the Primero and Segunda drums is the diameter which produces a distinct sound for each. The Primero has a smaller diameter which produces a high pitch, while the Segunda drum produces a heavy bass sound. The bass drummer maintains a consistent rhythm throughout a song to provide its beat, while the Primero drummer is responsible for the faster rhythms.

The Garifuna drums are cylindrical, comprising of sixteen holes drilled around the bottom. Cow skin is typically used for the bigger Segundo drums once cured. The skin is fastened to the drum using two pieces of ti-tie vines. The vines are shaped in rings that fit tightly over the top of the drum. The skin is wrapped with one vine on the inside and the other on the outside. These rings hold the skin in place with the aid of a rope. The rope is weaved through the holes at the bottom of the drum and through the upper ring that will pull down on the skin to make it cover tightly over the top of the drum. Eight wooden pins are used to tighten the rope and are adjusted to tune the drums to get the desired sound.

Photograph courtesy Banquitas House of Culture

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