Nigerian Dundun Drum


Have you ever heard of a talking drum? Create an authentic replica of a Nigerian dundun drum. Make it talk and sing!


1. Find out in which parts of Africa talking drums are played. This project describes how to make a talking drum from Nigeria called a dundun drum. Dundun drums come in many sizes. Except for the smallest drum, called Gudugudu, all the drums have an hourglass shape. The ends are covered with goatskin and laced together with cords. These drums are played with a curved drumstick.

2. In a ceremonial procession, the Master Drummer leads with the Mother Drum, or Iya Ilu. This drum has bells around the drumhead. Behind the Master Drummer is the Kanango, which is the smallest drum played by the smallest drummer. Next come Kerikeri and the Gangan. The Gangan is the type of drum you will create.

3. Start your drum with two plastic flowerpots or urns. The drum pictured is made from the bases of two plastic Grecian urns. Place one flowerpot face down on strong, stretchy, neutral-colored fabric such as polyester or poplin. If you use iridescent fabric, face the shiny side to the inside of the drum.

4. Using a Crayola® Marker, trace around the mouth of the pot onto the fabric. Then measure about two fingers wider than the circle and trace another circle. Place dots all around between the two circles---make the dots about three finger widths apart. With Crayola Scissors cut around the outer circle. Punch holes through all the dots. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for the second, matching pot. Line up the holes from the first circle so that you have the same number of holes.

5. Tie the smaller ends of the pots together with long plastic twist ties or similar items. Thread two ties through the drain holes of each pot and tie them so the pots are secure. Wrap duct tape around the joint between the two pots.

6. Using Crayola Crayons, create a wood effect on the pots. Research and draw authentic African designs on the wood.

7. Place the drum upright like an hourglass. Place one of the fabric circles under the bottom drumhead and the other fabric circle on the top. Cut a long length of twine to stretch from top to bottom of the drum, back and forth, all the way around. Tie one end of the twine to a hole. Lace the rest of the drumhead by going up and down the length of the drum. Pull the string tight enough so that it is taut but not so tight it tears the fabric. Tie the twine to the last hole.

8. Cover your art area with newspaper. Mix equal amounts of Crayola School Glue and water in a small bowl. Using a Crayola Paint Brush, paint this glaze on one of the drumheads. Dry. Glaze the other drumhead. Dry. The glaze makes the fabric tighter and produces a better drum sound.

9. To create an animal-skin effect, paint drumheads with Crayola Washable Kid's Paint. Blot on the paint with crumpled up scraps of fabric. Use two or three different colors so the drumheads look like animal skins.

10. To make a drumstick, find a curved plastic or wooden kitchen utensil or a backscratcher. The drumstick pictured was made from a plastic kitchen fork with the tines wrapped in duct tape. Other possibilities include soup or punch ladles or wooden spoons.

11. To play your instrument, hold the drum under one arm. Experiment with pressing on the cords or loosening your hold to produce high and low notes. This is how Nigerian drummers make their drums talk and sing. The Yoruba people of Nigeria use high and low pitches in their spoken language to communicate different meanings. For example, the word Ilu spoken with two low notes means "drum" while Ilu spoken with a low and high note means "town." The dundun drum sounds match the Yoruba language so people can hear words in the drum's language.

12. Create your own drum language by choosing several words and matching high or low pitches to these words. Write down your coded language with Crayola Colored Pencils. Play a sentence of your language to a classmate, and have your classmate answer back using the same code.

Safety Guidelines

Adult supervision is required for any arts & crafts project. Observe children closely and intervene as necessary to prevent potential safety problems and ensure appropriate use of arts and crafts materials. Some craft items, particularly beads and buttons, are potential choking hazards for young children. Avoid use of such small parts with children younger than 3 years. Craft items such as scissors, push pins and chenille sticks may have sharp points or edges. Avoid use of materials with sharp points by children younger than 4 years. Read all manufacturers' safety warnings before using arts and craft supplies.

Crayola Washable Paints—Not for use as body/face paint.

Mirrors, Picture Frames, and Plant Pots—Close adult supervision is required when children use craft materials that could shatter or break. Handheld mirrors, picture frames with glass, ceramic pots, and similar breakable items may be used only by children 8 years and older. For children 7 years and younger, use unbreakable materials such as wood or sturdy plastic picture frames, unbreakable mirrors, and plant pots that will not shatter into sharp edges.

Scissors—ATTENTION: The cutting edges of scissors are sharp and care should be taken whenever cutting or handling. Blunt-tip scissors should be used only by children 4 years and older. Pointed-tip scissors should be used only by children 6 years and older.

String-Like Materials—Includes string, raffia, lacing, yarn, ribbon, and other similar material. Children 3 years and younger should not be given any string-like material that is longer than 12 inches. Close adult supervision is essential whenever children use string-like material. When crafts are to be worn around the necks of children 8 years and younger, attach the ends of the “string-like material” with clear adhesive tape, which allows easy release of the bond if the craft becomes entangled or caught on equipment. For children older than 8 years, the ends of the “string-like material” may be tied and knotted.


  • Create the other drums in the dundun family to make a complete set.
  • African drummers use the drums to spread good news, warn others of danger, tell about Yoruba gods, play to people in the marketplace, or to play on a day of celebration. Using your dundun drums, create a royal procession to celebrate the arrival of a king.
  • Research different types of drums found on various continents. Find out how they are made and used. How are they similar? How do they differ?

Related Lesson Plans

Lesson Plans

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crayola supplies
  • Paint Brushes
  • Crayons
  • Colored Pencils
  • Markers
  • Washable Kid's Paint
  • No-Run School Glue
  • Pointed Tip Scissors
household supplies
  • recycled newspaper
  • white paper
  • hole punch
  • fabric
  • bowl
  • plant pots
  • container(s) of water
  • plastic dinnerware
  • twine
  • twist ties
  • duct tape



  • Grades 4 to 6


  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies
  • Visual Arts


  • Multiple Sessions


  • Children research information about western African talking drums.

  • Children build an authentic, detailed replica of a Nigerian dundun drum using flowerpots and fabric.

  • Children create their own language with their drums and use it to communicate with each other.


Research Canada Standards
Research UK Standards
Research U.S. Standards