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Images from The Beede Gallery

Two Drums from a Set of
Tuned Drums or Drum Chime (Entenga), Uganda, ca. 1910

Pair of Ugandan drums

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NMM 3179 and 3180.  Two drums from a set of tuned drums or drum chime (entenga), Uganda, ca. 1910. Played at the royal court of the Kabaka, the traditional ruler of Buganda, a region of Uganda. As many as 15 such drums are played together, tuned so that one can hear a melody. Inside of each, an unidentified fetish rattles around. Collected by Carl E. Akeley (1864-1926), best known as the American explorer, naturalist, and taxidermist who led five expeditions to Africa for the Field Museum in Chicago and the American Museum of Natural History in New York between 1896-1926. Because artifacts collected on African expeditions at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century had to be carried out of the interior by porters, the tendency was to collect smaller drums, making this large pair particularly rare. Carl's older brother, Lewis E. Akeley (1861-1961), was Dean of the USD College of Engineering and died in Vermillion at the age of 100. Given to the donor, Melville H. Miller (Lewis Akeley's son-in-law), from the Estate of Mary L. Jobe Akeley (d. 1966). Gift of Melville H. Miller, DeLand, Florida, 1983.

Close-up Views of Lacing

Head of drum with handles  Close-up view of lacing

The drums, carved from heavy logs, are covered with ox hide that is laced together with about 300-feet of twisted thong. Inside the drums are fetishes, which, according to James Blades (Percussion Instruments and Their History), "are often placed inside the body of the drum before the skin is stretched across the opening. These embellishments vary as they conform to the prevailing belief and include skulls, bones, shells, sacred stones, or part of an organ from an animal previously slain to supply the covering for the drum. In such a case, the instrument is subject to various taboos, sometimes so severe that no-one dares to look into the drum before it is covered."

Literature:   "Collected by Carl Akeley . . .  Rare African Drums Acquired," Shrine to Music Museum, Inc. Newsletter 10, No. 4 (July 1983), pp. 1 and 3.

André P. Larson, The National Music Museum: A Pictorial Souvenir (Vermillion: National Music Museum, 1988), pp. 15 and 31.

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