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. 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 🙂

  2. 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.

  3. Those are exquisite, and woods used are very colorful/textural, I love supporting local arts like this, thanks for sharing

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

Comments are closed.