The Talking Drum, from the International Museum of Cultures’ Virtual Field Trip for Teachers

Through the IMC Electronic Field Trip, the museum’s exhibits on indigenous peoples come to life. For instance, a teacher can have students experience the unusual “Talking Drum” without having to leave the classroom.

The International Museum of Cultures has exhibits on the Bimoba people. The Chief of the Bimoba people uses a Talking Drum to announce the arrival of visitors to the village or when the chief wishes to call a special meeting.

When we think of drums being used to communicate, we often think of the drum as a musical instrument. However, many cultures throughout history used them to convey a signal. In addition to signalling, drums have also been used as a speech surrogate. A Speech Surrogate replicates the tone and rhythm of oral speech.

Drums that are used as Speech Surrogates are also referred to as “tallking Drums”. Refer to our previous post on Talking Drums. In that post we highlight Paul Neeley and his book, the “People of the Drum of God – Come”.

Below are excerpts from the dialogue in the International Museum of Cultures Virtual Tour where the Docent refers to the use of a Talking Drum by the Bimoba people of Northeastern Ghana:


Gwen (The Docent speaking to the children that have entered the Museum)

Hello, are you ready to go to Africa? Just follow me…

The Bimoba live in Northeastern Ghana, in West Africa, and there are about 120,000 speakers of the Bimoba language. The Bimoba chief is a very important person.  To become a chief, he must be born into the Bimoba royal family, be popular or wealthy, be married and have at least one child, and he must not have been a criminal, be scarred or disabled in any way.

Ruben (student)

That’s not nice.  I mean if someone had a bad leg or something and couldn’t be king.

Gwen (Docent)

Well, to our of way of looking at the world, you might be right, but we must remember that different cultures have different ways than ours. One main difference in the Bimoba culture is that a chief does not speak directly to his people, nor does he speak loudly.  He speaks to a person called a “linguist”, who speaks loudly on his behalf, refining what he has said.  To speak to a chief, a person addresses the linguist, who is highly regarded because he intercedes between the chief and the people.

(The Docent picks up a drum.)

Gwen (CONT)

This is the “Talking Drum”:  The Bimoba can change the pitch by squeezing the strings that run down the side of the drum.  The chief or the chief’s linguist uses this type of drum to announce the arrival of visitors to the village or when the chief wishes to call a special meeting.


Click on the picture to hear an example of a Talking Drum

Take a moment to hear more of the International Museum of Cultures’ Virtual Field Trip by clicking here. If you want more information about using the Museum’s Virtual Fielp Trip, contact us at  972-708-7406 or send us an email at

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