A person that’s interested in Native American culture might want to learn about the role of one of the most widely used instruments in celebration and worship. Drums play a key role in all aspects of a tribe’s activities. Each Native American drum name and construction may be different, yet each instrument connects to a person’s heartbeat and natural rhythm. Native Americans often use the beats of drums to gain protection and guidance from spirits. Many native Americans believe the drumbeat represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth. Most drums are crafted from wood and animal hide. Here is a look at some of the most common form of drum.
The most common drums in Native American tribes are hand drums. Many are double-sided and contain rawhide on both sides. The size of the drum and the type of hide dictate the sound that results. Large drums produce deep echoes.
Newer hand drums include spinners. This drum is small and is positioned on a stick that contains a tiny drum with striker beads. As a person spins the drum, a sound is produced.
Some American tribes utilize water drums. These items vary in size; each one is filled with water so that a unique resonant sound results after being struck. The tone depends on the amount of water that is used. Two tribes in particular, the Iroquois and the Yaqui, use water drums. The Yaqui create water drums from gourds, split in half and placed split side down in a basin of water. When hit by a striker, the vibrations cause the water to resonate.
In general the loudest drums that Native Americans play are powwow drums. They are often used in celebrations where people dance, sing, and honor the culture. Powwow drums have large bases and heads that are made from cow, elk or buffalo hide. When people are gathered in large circles and are singing, these drums keep the beat. They are a group instrument, meaning the larger the drum, the more drummers one can utilize.
Although less common today, foot drums were once used by many Native American tribes. Today, they are still part of Aztec and Hopi Indian celebrations. They are crafted from hollowed logs that are either held above the ground by the feet of the drummer or positioned over wood pits. When the tops of the drums are tapped, a strong sound is produced.
Everything about Native American drums is symbolic. Their shapes represent the circle of life. The use of natural materials makes them one with the environment. Images are often added on the sides to display personal or spiritual images during celebrations and ceremonies. Although each Native American drum name is different, each is used to celebrate, to communicate with spirits, and to make offerings to Creator. At Kachina House, it is possible to get a real feel for the beauty and function of these drums and how they relate to American Indian culture.