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The Gumbay Drum

The gumbay drum caught my attention at the Accompong Maroon Festival in January. I’d never seen a drum that was small and square and looked more like a stool than a drum.

As I was leaving the festival, I noticed a small stall with storyboards explaining how gumbay drums are made. There were also several drums on display. The gentleman inside introduced himself as the son of the master drum maker.

Gumbay drum maker's son

Son of the master drum maker

Maker of the gumbay drum

The master drum maker

Sanding the gumbay drum

Storyboard of the master drum maker

Although simple in design, the gumbay drum has several parts. The inner part of is called a baby, the outer part the frame. The top, which is usually made from the skin of the female goat, is the membrane. Maroons use the gumbay drum in their rituals and traditional ceremonies. They are also used to induce a trance state and to communicate with the ancestors.

Storyboard explaining the making of the gumbay drum


He explained how the drums were made — the design looked simple enough for a professional. I doubt that I would have been able to fit the pieces together as easily.  He also demonstrated the special rhythms that drummers play in the different instances when the drum is used. (Sorry, I can’t find my notes and I’ve forgotten the names of the master drum maker and his son.)

Three gumbay drums

Drums on display

Closeup of a gumbay drum



This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.





  1. A very unusual drums… interesting 🙂
    Muza-chan recently posted..Japanese Customs and Traditions, Toro nagashiMy Profile

  2. The Gumbay drum really does look like a stool. I shall look at all stools long and hard before I sit on any in the future 🙂
    budget jan recently posted..Views from the Alhambra in Granada SpainMy Profile

  3. Marcia, this is so interesting – they look like cute little stools!
    Jackie Smith recently posted..“Gorging” Ourselves in Greece’s ManiMy Profile

  4. Hi Marcia, I would have sat of on those if you didn’t tell me they were drums:) I think its interesting that you actually get to meet the master drum maker and get to witness him at work. I’m curious how they sound. Hopefully I can find a video on YouTube.
    Marisol recently posted..Dominica: The Hike to the Boiling LakeMy Profile

  5. Thanks for showing us about this drum and the process to create it!
    EverywhereAmy recently posted..Highway 45 Pitstop – Ginormous Sam Houston Statue in Huntsville, TexasMy Profile

  6. Those are exquisite, and woods used are very colorful/textural, I love supporting local arts like this, thanks for sharing
    noel recently posted..Hawaii Island, top places to visit on the east sideMy Profile

  7. Interesting! They do look more like pieces of furniture than musical instruments.
    Dick Jordan recently posted..Travel Photo Thursday: “Inside Shots”My Profile

  8. Very interesting. I would have definitely bought one of these drums. I also would have assumed it was a stool.
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted..Parc de la Villette: A Kids’ Paradise in ParisMy Profile

  9. It is, Michele. I’m sure some people have bought them thinking they were stools.

  10. So true, Dick.

  11. This is all so interesting, Marcia. If I didn’t read your title, I would have assumed they were stools or footrests 🙂 Fascinating how they used it to induce a trance state. I totally would have bought one too.
    Mary recently posted..Our 2013 European Castles and Palaces TourMy Profile

  12. I really like the new blog design. Nice portraits too
    denise recently posted..Hiroshima, you are unexpectedMy Profile

  13. You’re welcome, Noel. I agree with you on the types of woods that are used.

  14. You’re welcome, Amy!

  15. I know what you mean, Marisol. It was a great experience meeting the master drummer and his son. I had planned to go back after the festival so I could get and video a demo but you know how it goes sometimes. Wish I had a video to send you. Unfortunately, YouTube doesn’t have one with this particular type of gumbay and the video I took at the festival doesn’t feature it.

  16. They sure do, Jackie!

  17. LOL, I agree, Jan! It’d be so easy to make a mistake.

  18. It is an interesting drum, Muza-chan.

  19. Never saw one of these gumbay drums, but very interesting information about them, espeically about their use to induce a trance. What great photos you got of the drum maker and his son.
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted..The Four Seasons, Milan StyleMy Profile

  20. Thanks, Cathy. I was lucky to catch the father as he was out and about during the festival.
    They definitely catch the attention.

  21. Thanks, Denise. Still tweaking it.

  22. You’d be excused for thinking they were stools, Mary, because they do look like them.
    The trance state is probably reserved for special occasions and for Maroons only.

  23. It sure doesn’t look like a drum. Interesting design.
    Salika Jay recently posted..Top 10 Amusement Parks In The WorldMy Profile

  24. I love all the detail! I would have never thought much about what goes into drum making, so it’s fascinating to see the process.
    Jess recently posted..Twin Cities Ice Cream FavoritesMy Profile

  25. How unusual. Would love to hear the sound of a gumbay drum. Also, love the photo of the drum maker, esp. the second one. The very image of a Jamaican.
    Sophie recently posted..Travel photo: Dubrovnik old townMy Profile

  26. Great article Marcia! Lucky you having met the master drum-maker’s son too. It is always fascinating meeting people who make traditional instruments. Great experience to have had!

  27. Thanks, Jessica. I agree, it was a great experience meeting the men. I’d love to chat with them again.

  28. I wish I had a recording but there were several different drums playing at the same time.
    Glad you like the photo, Sophie. Yes, he’s definitely got that look.

  29. Definitely a cool drum. I wonder too what it sounds like. Thanks for sharing the photos.
    Betty J Savers recently posted..Target 50 Free 4×6 Prints Coupon CodeMy Profile

  30. Wish I had a recording….well, maybe next time.

  31. Thanks, Jess!
    It’s a lovely art which takes skill and a great ear, I’m sure.

  32. Nice to see your blog, Good info. Keep posting new stuff. Will be visiting this site frequently.

  33. Such a nice creativity. I like the pics a lot.Really interesting. Thanks for sharing such creative work with us. I waiting for more new stuff to come soon at your blog.
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