Cameroon drum-makers cash in on its popularity


In Ekali, a village on the outskirts of Cameroon’s capital city Yaounde, the rhythms of tam-tam, a centuries-old traditional drum fills the air. Martin Mbezele Zambo has made a name for himself in the village as one of the best tam-tam drum makers.

At 42, Zambo has spent most of his life manufacturing all sizes and colors of tam-tam and other typical African drums. “I have been doing this job for 25 years,” Zambo said when Xinhua visited his workshop on a working day. It was a windy, sunny day and sunset was still a couple of hours away. The wind whistled through trees and the sound of singing birds echoed through Ekali.

Zambo and six other drum-makers were buried in work. They used a tree trunk that is sourced from a nearby forest and with an iron hollow it in a rectangular form to produce the tam-tam. They also produced other drums by putting an animal skin over the top of the hollowed trunk, stretching it, and tying it down, or made the Balafon instrument by using a series of wooden bars, or keys and rest them on a bamboo frame.

It is an ancestral know-how that is passed on from generation to generation, said Zambo. “I was trained (to make drums) by my big brother, who was trained by my grandfather,” he said and added that in the past, their grandparents spent months making a tam-tam, today it takes two to four days. “My great grandfather trained my grandfather who trained my father who trained me,” said Jules Atangana, Zambo’s neighbor who is also an artisan.

The sound and notes of the drum vary according to the wood and the shape hollowed out of it. Tam-tam is sounded by being struck with sticks. Drums are providing a living for young people who can make or play them.

On a good day, Zambo sells one tam-tam for 25,000 xaf (approximately 40 US dollars), especially to foreigners who come from neighboring Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. “This job allows me to feed my family, my children go to school, they have never been expelled from school for lack of money,” said Zambo who is a father of three.

“I just bought a piece of land thanks to this work,” added 35-year-old Atangana who left


Posted by on May 13 2022. Filed under top stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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