drum (Maragoli)

Contextual Associations

This pair of single-headed membranophnes is attributed to the Maragoli tribe of Kenya, Eastern Africa. They may be called isugandi or isugudi, which are names of Maragoli drums, but descriptions of the drums bearing these names were not encountered. The Maragoli live in western Kenya, north of Lake Victoria, and speak a Bantu language. Because there have been no published studies of Maragoli music we are unable to provide any information about the contextual use of these drums. 


The shells of these drums are carved from solid blocks of hardwood most likely from a tree species common to the area in which the Maragoli live. The shells have rather thick walls, are tubular and, in a general sense, conical in shape (the covered end is considerably larger than the open end). However, their exterior shape defies easy categorization because it displays a suggestion of being goblet shaped. Monitor lizard skin is used for the drumhead, which is attached to the body with small wooden pegs. During the carving process two nibs are left on one side of the shell to serve as anchors for a strap; one drum is outfitted with a rope strap, the other with one made from a strip of processed rubber. Both drums have a few short strips of [rubber] tacked onto the shell that appear to be attempts to repair or stabilize cracks, although no cracks are evident.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The presence of a strap on these drums suggests that each is likely played while being carried by a musician, and that both of the player’s hands would be free to strike the drumhead. Whether or not a beater of some sort is used in one or both hands is not known; no beaters came with the drums. No mechanical means of regulating or adjusting the tension on the head is designed into these drums, leaving dampening with water or heating near a fire prior to a performance as the most likely ‘tuning’ methods used by performers.


Information on the origins and evolution of these drums was not found.

Floyd, Malcolm. 2005. “A Biographical Index of Kenyan Musical Instruments,” The Galpin Society Journal 58: 132-159.


Instrument Information


Continent: Africa

Region: East Africa

Nation: Kenya

Formation: Maragoli

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

211.251.1 membranophone--individual single-skin conical drum

Design and Playing Features

Category: membranophone

Number of drums comprising instrument: single drum

Shell design: tubular - bulging-conical

Number and function of membranes: one, for sounding

Membrane design: unframed

Membrane attachment: unframed membrane nailed to shell

Membrane tension control: none, tension set at time of manufacture

Sounding for membranophone: striking directly with both hands

Sound modifiers for membranophone: none


26.4 in. height of larger drum 19.3 in. height of smaller drum

Primary Materials

membrane - reptile skin

Entry Author

Roger Vetter