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The Search for Efficiency

Burkina Faso
Ethnic group: Mossi
Canadian Museum of Civilization

  Bendre - CMC no. 2000.137.1 / Photo: Harry Foster


The bendre is made from a large calabash that has been hollowed out. After the top is cut open, it is covered with an animal skin that is held in place with leather straps. A leather cover protects the skin, the centre of which is coated with a resinous product. The most noble of all instruments, the bendre has always been reserved for the court of the emperor and the leaders of the provinces. It is responsible for recalling the heroic deeds of the dynasties and the virtues of the Mossi people. The drum reminds the chief that he must be impartial, modest and brave. The entire Mossi mosaic is found in the bendre, which is an instrument of social cohesion.

This instrument is exclusive to the benda guild, whose mission, since time immemorial, has been to play during all official acts of the court and to illustrate those acts. Only members of the benda caste who are initiated know the language of the bendre. The language must be learned and is transmitted from father to son. When they are young boys learn simple rhythms, which they practise and put to the test by playing in public on market days.