Have you heard of the Yoruba Bata drums?

I was watching a Yoruba movie the other day and saw a talking drum and for some reason, it just brought a smile to my face. Back in the day (wayyyyy before my time ;)), a talking drum was used as a tool of communication within a village and between villages. With technology, talking drums are quickly dying a horrible death in Yorubaland.

That then reminded me of the only Yoruba drum name that I knew, Bata drums!


What are Bata drums?

bata drums lagbaja

image from bbc.co.uk

Bata drums originated in Yorubaland and were used for religious and/or cultural events. Due to the slave trade, its use can also be found in South America (especially Cuba), as introduced by the Yorubas amongst them.

From my very little knowledge, Bata drums were usually played during events for Sango.

Tsk tsk, I’m moving ahead of myself. A Bata drum is a two sided drum with one end bigger than the other. It is both for entertainment eg during Sango’s festival or to convey messages as a talking drum.



Lagbaja is a Yoruba musician who uses Bata drums in his performances or some of them at least. On his website, he aptly describes them but mostly importantly, if you click this link, you can hear the sound the different Bata drums make. According to Lagbaja’s website

Bata ensemble

The bata family can also be categorized like the dundun family.

  1. Iya ilu (the mother drums)
  2. Omele (the baby drums)

The bottom (idi ilu) of the cone shaped iya ilu bata is played with an open palm. A beater plays the high pitched smaller end (sasa)Ida, a thick black substance, is affixed to the bottom, making it possible to play different pitches from this side of the drum.

The omele genus comprises:

  • Omele ako (male backing drum)
    Three small bata with three basic speech tuned tones. Omele ako, adamo, and . These three drums are tied together and are played by one drummer using two flat leather beaters.
  • Omele abo (female backing drum)
    This is a smaller version of the iya ilu.

As with the dundun ensemble, the bata family is usually enlarged by increasing the number of drums and players.

Here’s one of Lagbaja’s performances. Did you spot a Bata drum?


So what are your favourite drums? What do you think of Bata drums? Please leave me a comment below

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge