Traditional Igbo music - drums and flutes

Oja flute

The Oja flute is often used with Igbo drums such as the (log drum) Ekwe, (vessel drum) Udu and/or the Igba. This unique whistle 'talks' while the drummers are playing. During masquerade dances in Igboland, the Oja flutist leads the drumming and praise music and dance. An Oja master is be able to produce several sounds directly analogous with spoken or sung words. Dancers also move to the tune of the Oja flute as if it were a drum or other rhythmic instrument. If an important person enters the performance space, the Oja flutist may use this instrument to announce the name of such person. The Oja flute is also played at home without other instruments, or in the evening as a serenade accompaniment while strolling with a friend or life partner.

Ekwe drum

The Ekwe is a two-pitch Igbo log drum. There are two types of hardwood (yellow or red). Played with either a plain straight wood stick or a rubber-tipped short beater similar to a large balafon or Alo (long gong-bell) mallet. Larger Ekwes are usually played with two sticks, while smaller ones are usually played with only one stick.

The Ube wood that is used for carving Yellow Ekwe log drums is also called "white wood," but not because the yellow outer part of the drum is the wood's natural color... instead, the drum's shell is painted with a yellow powder (that prior to being applied to the drum shell is diluted in water).

The Red Ekwe is carved from a naturally-red wood called "Orji" in the Igbo language. This wood is more expensive than the "white" wood used in the Yellow Ekwe both because of its beautiful intense (and very natural) red color and its ability to resist insect (termite/worm) damage.

Igba drum

These drums often accompany many other instruments. Traditionally, the deeper shelled Igba are played with the hand, while the shorter drums are played with a curved stick. In an ensemble these drums often lead, and are used to "talk" by the talking drummers. To tune the drum, the player will use a strong object to whack the pegs around the drum in order to restore its best tone.

Igba woods. Certain trees/timber of this region are noted for unique properties, and drum carvers know which varieties make the best drums. Some varieties (e.g. Orji, used in Ekwe log drums) are unique to the forests of this area; we do not have exactly the same species elsewhere, hence the names of some of these mixed-color drum woods are known only to Igbos who harvest them.

Udu drums
The Udu drum is a pot drum made of clay and played with either the hand or a foam paddle. The smaller and medium sized Udu drums have a hole on the side of the drum that is cupped with the hand allowing control over the drum's pitch as the other hand strikes the mouth of the pot to create the tone. The larger Udu drums do not have holes on the side and are, instead, played by striking the mouth of the pot with a large foam paddle. These larger Udu sometimes serve as bass for other instruments, while the smaller Udu back the larger, deeper Udu up with more melodic tones. These drums are sometimes played in churches in Igboland.


  1. hey tnx for this, it really helped for an assignment

  2. You are welcome. That is great. I am glad that it was helpfull.

  3. Yes thank you so much for this! I also had an assignment to do, and this was perfect!!

  4. Yeah. This really helped with a project. thanks!

  5. Thanks so much! Helped a lot with my research on Igbo culture!

  6. Could you post your sources?

  7. Thanks, u rock. Help with my paper.

  8. Can U record the sounds of these instruments and display the sound link with them so that people can hear what these instruments actually sound like?

  9. Yes it will be wonderful to post the sounds of each instrument and samples of music that they featured in.
    Thanks ever so kindly for your part in preserving the Ibo culture and traditions.

  10. Ogudoro, I find this very helpful in my research work. Thanks.

  11. Ndeewoo mmazi! I find it very useful for my son's assignment in school. Good job!

  12. thanks man i have a English and this helps me alot <3

  13. what's the use of Igbo music? not asking in bad way!

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