Haitian Voudou Drumming

Jim Donovan
Originally published in DRUM! Magazine’s May 2007 Issue

Enslaved Africans in Haiti were resilient enough to retain their musical heritage while continuing to use it in their struggle to survive. Nago is a traditional Haitian piece that has its roots in Nigeria. The rhythms are played on a set of drums called rada, which are conga-shaped drums of three different sizes: maman is the largest, segon is the medium size, and boula is the small one. The drums are played both with hands and sticks. The other two instruments in this ensemble are the ogan (an iron bell) and the ason (a gourd rattle). When approaching the kit patterns, experiment by focusing on the hand patterns while just keeping time with your hi-hat pedal. Once you have this, then you can integrate the kick drum. Check out master Haitian drummer Frisner Augustin and his La Troupe Makandal at makandal.org, as well as the book The Drums Of Voudou by Lois Wilcken.

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