Slit drums are found in Asia, the Americas, Africa, and Oceania. They
vary in size from huge tree trunks (6 metres or more in length and 2.1
metres or more in width) enclosed in huts and played by several men, to
small bamboo instruments used in Malaysia by watchmen. Large slit drums
are sometimes less precisely called slit gongs.
Unlike membrane drums, which are classified as membranophones, slit drums are idiophones, or resonant solids.
There are two different types of slit drums:
2. With more than one slit and a cross cut forming a number of tongues
that can be played.
In Africa large wooden slit-drums are big-bellied drums, set on four
feet, of a shape not unlike that of the buffalo. The horned buffalo shape
and large size of this drum (pictured) reflect high social status of its
original owner. They
are used by chiefs or prominent nobles to transmit the coded tones of
important messages over the long distances from village to village. They
produce a variety of tones, pitches, and rhythms, which convey announcements
and coded messages. Drums of this type are installed in the center of
the village in a special structure where they can be protected from the
rain and sun.
Early 20th century slit drum from Zaire.
The wooden linga of the Banda-Linda people of Central Africa are generally used in groups of three (or four) instruments of different size (the largest may measure up to two meters long) and form a kind of family. Each player hammers the edges of the slit with a pair of mallets ending in a ball of latex, to produce two different notes.
Besides their use for transmitting messages, West and Central African slit drums are often played in combination with membrane drums and other instruments.
The second type of drum was originally hollowed out through an H-shaped slit which gives two extended and free moving tongues. These tongues when hit produce a note as they vibrate. The tone produced will vary depending on the length, width and thickness of each tongue.
This style of drum, featuring tongue-like shapes cut in decorative carved logs, seems to have occurred only in Central America among the Aztecs and earlier Meso-American peoples.
The Aztec called the drum Teponaztli, while the Mayans called it a Tun or Tunkel.
These photos show teponaztli drums in a variety of figurative designs.
The historic teponaztli has deep cultural and spiritual meaning for Indios and other communities in Mexico. Its name means 'wooden drum' in Nahuatl. In other dialects, it is known as tunkul, quiringua or teponagua. They are made from a section of a hollowed hardwood tree trunk (or occasionally from small gourds that also serve as resonators. As can be seen many of these instruments are decorated with lotus or other symbolic designs, and some are carved in the shapes of alligators.
Aztec narratives describe music as a gift brought to earth by both Tezcatlipoca, the sky god and Quetzalcoatl, the wind god, from the court of the Sun. The drum teponaztli is respected as a spiritual being who is exiled temporarily on Earth. Zapotec warriors were said to carry this them into battle. In addition, according to Aztec documents (called 'codexes') possibly, several of these drums were played together to accompany songs. In Central America, similar instruments (some with three or four wooden tongues or "keys") were used to send messages because of their penetrating, resonant sound.
A performer strikes the drum with wooden mallets that have rubber tips. According to Robert Stevenson, these mallets were called olmaitl. Some drums are small enough to be carried by a strap around your neck, while others, more than 1 1/2 meters in length, would be placed on a tripod.
Two smaller, Chinese offshoots of the slit drum are the wood block and
the wooden fish (Chinese mu yü; also known as temple block), carved
in the shape of a mythical fish and lacquered red.
Can you see in the photo that there is something wrong about the girl
playing the manguare?
The first step is to mark the H shape in pencil.
You should make sure that the tongues are not the same lengths as will
produce the same sound if there is not enough difference in their lengths.
These varying lengths will give you different tones. If you make the tongues
too short, they may not produce a tone at all. You may need to try to
make a few with differing lengths to get the sounds you like. Chances
are, you will probably get a reasonable sound first try.
The second step is to drill a hole on the ends of the cross markings of the H. The hole needs to be large enough to enable you to put a jigsaw blade down it. This will enable you to make the cuts.
The third step is to cut the tongues following the lines. Make sure your jigsaw blade is not too long. If it is you will find your jigsaw jumping out of your hand as it hits the base of the bamboo. You might be able to use a jigsaw blade by hand or a special hole-saw might do if you do not own an electric jigsaw.
The fourth step is to sand the cut to make sure there are no splinters and make sure there is enough room with the cut to enable the tongue to vibrate freely. Sometimes you will find that by cutting these tongues the bamboo (or wood) will move and not allow the tongues free movement. In cases such as this you can re-cut the slits or sand them to allow enough free play.