Also:       kalungu      kalanggual      danko      

Title: The Music of Nigeria: Hausa Music—Butchers’ rhythm; kalangu performers not identified (field recording by David Ames--see Bibliography). Label: Barenreiter-Musicaphon. Format: LP. Catalogue#: BM 30 L 2306. Track: A-1.

Contextual Associations

The kalangu is a double-headed, hourglass-shaped, variable-pitch membranophone of the Hausa people of Nigeria. It is most strongly associated with a class of professional musicians (called masu kalangu) traditionally patronized by butchers (mahauta); more recently, patronage has been extended to boxers (who are often butchers), young people, and popular singer/entertainers.


The hourglass-shaped shell of the kalangu is carved from a solid block of wood (from the kawo, kimba, k’irya or marke trees). The interior resonating space of the drum mirrors its exterior profile. The edge of each goatskin membrane (samfara) is wrapped around a narrow strip of leather (saisaya), which in turn is stitched with a fine thread made from goatskin (tuke) to a stiff circular hoop (kambu) that is covered with dark brown tanned leather. This stitching passes through the edge of the membrane and then goes around the hoop before passing through the membrane again. This pattern is repeated about seventy-five times until the circumference of the membrane is in contact with the inside of the kambu. The two heads are placed over the ends of the shell, and then a very long length of leather cord (tsarkiya) made from cow hide is used to connect them to one another. This cord lacing is first looped around one of the tuke stitches that connects the membrane to its hoop at one end of the drum, then runs the length of the shell and is looped over a tuke stitch of the other head. This procedure is repeated about seventy-five times until the two heads are thoroughly connected to one another and the leather lacing completely veils the drum shell. Before the heads are mounted on the shell, the maker places several seeds (‘ya’ya baba) inside the drum shell. A cloth strap is attached to the two kambu. A sturdy hooked beater (maka’di) is made from the root of specific varieties of tree. 

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The kalangu is suspended with the cloth strap from the player’s left shoulder. The player hugs the drum’s lacing with his left arm and strikes the forward facing head (the backwards facing head is not struck at all) with the hooked beater, which is held in his right hand. The fingers of his left hand are situated in such a way that they can also strike the playing head of the drum. By alternately increasing and decreasing the amount of pressure on the leather lacing that connects the two heads a variety of pitches and pitch inflections can be produced when the playing head is struck. Because the drum head that is being struck is held at a slight upward angle, the seeds inside the shell rest against the inside of the other head and produce a snare-like effect in response to the energy being produced on the playing head.


Double-headed, hourglass-shaped, variable-pitch membranophones such as the kalangu are a type of drum distributed broadly throughout western Africa, all the way from Senegal in the west to Nigeria in the east. Such a broad distribution suggests that such drums have been around for a long time, their basic design concept having traveled with migrations of people and the resulting cultural contacts over a period of centuries. However, like so many other African instruments, little is known in precise terms of the origin and history of the kalangu.

Bibliographic Citations

Ames, David W. n.d. “The Music of Nigeria: Hausa Music, Record I.” UNESCO Collection—An Anthology of African Music v.6. LP and liner notes. Barenreiter-Musicaphon BM 30 L 2306.

________, and Anthony V. King. 1971. Glossary of Hausa Music and Its Social Contexts. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

Gourley, K. A. “Kalangu [kalanggual, kalungu, danko].” NGDMI v. 2: 350-351.

________, and Roger Blench. “Kalangu [kalanggual, kalungu, danko].” Oxford Music Online, Grove Music Online. Accessed October 14, 2013. http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.grinnell.idm.oclc.org/subscriber/article/grove/music/46357?q=kalangu&search=quick&pos=1&_start=1#firsthit


Instrument Information


Continent: Africa

Region: West Africa

Nation: Nigeria

Formation: Hausa

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

211.242.11 membranophone--individual double-skin hourglass shaped drum, one skin used for playing

Design and Playing Features

Category: membranophone

Number of drums comprising instrument: single drum

Shell design: tubular - hourglass

Number and function of membranes: two, one for sounding and one for resonance

Membrane design: framed with rigid flesh hoop

Membrane attachment: framed membrane hoop connected by lacing to framed membrane hoop

Membrane tension control: hugging/squeezing lacing

Sounding for membranophone: striking with one handheld beater

Sound modifiers for membranophone: seeds or pellets inside closed shell


17.3 in length

Primary Materials

membrane - mammal skin
lacing - rawhide

Entry Author

Roger Vetter