Resonance: Musical Heritage of La Francophonie Previous   Next


The Search for Efficiency

Rada drum
Made by Miguel Zami
Canadian Museum of Civilization

  Rada drums - CMC no. 2000.64.3, 2000.64.5 / Photo: Harry Foster


Rada drums are associated with the three religious rites of rada, petro and congo. So is the flute, which is used to call the Loà, the divinities invoked during voodoo ceremonies. The drums are sacred instruments, and their construction must end with a benediction to ensure the quality of their sound and the effectiveness of their role as mediators. After invoking Legba, the Loà who opens the door to the entire voodoo pantheon, drum makers pour some clairin (rum) on the ground and the skins of the drum. They then make signs over the skins with a lighted candle and recite the following benediction: "Marie drum, you were a great tree in the forest. Forgive me for cutting you down, but I did it with respect. I brought you near my caye (home), where I hollowed you out with all the skill and experience I have acquired, to make you a drum. I ask that you resonate with a beautiful sound each time that someone beats you, from this moment on."