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.




33 comments on “The Gumbay Drum

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

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