udu® drum claytone

Also:       udu      claytone      pot drum      

Contextual Associations

The Latin Percussion (hereafter LP) udu® drum claytone is a vessel idiophone that is an adaptation of plosive aerophones indigenous to the Igbo and other southeastern Nigeria peoples. LP has developed this instrument for the cosmopolitan hand percussion market niche. While the Igbo udu is an instrument played primarily by women in a number of traditional and neo-traditional settings, no such associations carry over to the LP instrument. Its creation capitalizes upon centuries-old African traditions (through the retention of the Igbo name for the instrument, which LP has registered as a trademark) and LP's reputation for design and materials innovation to introduce a new product to the World Music percussionist’s tool kit.


The udu® drum claytone is constructed in the typical water pot shape consisting of a round vessel tapering to a short and slim neck. While the plosive aerophones this instrument mimics are traditionally of modeled clay, the LP instrument has signatures of being first cast in many pieces and then assembled. The vessel has two openings, one situated as on a normal pot at the mouth of the neck, and a second on the face of the vessel. Both openings have an internal diameter of 2 in. Its walls are covered both inside and out in a thick brown glaze and the rims of the two holes are covered with a terracotta glaze. The LP Percussion logo is stamped on the neck (not visible in the photo) and is underscored by the imprinted word ‘UDU’. A 1.5-inch thick braided-wicker ring acts as a base lifting the instrument off the floor.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

This instrument is not a part of an existing musical tradition and therefore does not have an established performance technique. However, the instrument on which it is based does have an associated performance practice that will be the basis of the following description. The pot rests on its player's lap with the side hole facing upwards. In this position, the player alternately covers the two holes with her cupped palms. Closing one of the apertures and then rapidly opening it creates a partial vacuum and the instrument emits a ‘plopping or whooping,’ sound, where the hollow interior of the vessel acts as a resonator. As a tradition-free world music instrument, the sonorous potential of the pot can also be exploited by tapping on its side with the knuckles and/or finger pads (this is why a second classification for the instrument as a percussion vessel idiophone is provided). All physical aspects of the instrument being fixed, there is no way to tune the vessel after creation. A handful of discrete tones may be produced with various attack techniques.


Although the African precursors of this instrument potentially date back centuries to the invention of clay pots, Latin Percussion's appropriation and transformation of them dates back only to the late 20th century.

Bibliographic Citations

Ames, David W. and Ken A. Gourlay. 1978. "Kimkim: A Women's Musical Pot," African Arts 11(2): 56-64, 95-96.

Blench, Roger. 1987. "Idoma Musical Instruments," African Music 6(4): 42-52.

DjeDje, Jacqueline Cogdell. 2000. "West Africa: An Introduction." In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: Africa.

Gourlay, K. A. 1984. "Kimkim." NGDMI v.2: 430-431.

Jeffreys, M.W.D. 1940. "A Musical Pot from Southern Nigeria," Man 40: 186-187.

Lo-Bamijoko, J.N. 1987. "Classification of Igbo Musical Instruments, Nigeria," African Music 6(4):19-41.


Instrument Information


Continent: Americas

Region: North America

Nation: United States of America

Formation: cosmopolitan (Euro-American)

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

111.246--413.2 an instrument that combines idiophone and aerophone characteristics: 1) percussion pot idiophone: a sonorous hollow pot-like object, with a soundhole--2) implosive aerophone: the air is made to vibrate by a single density stimulus condensation shock that forces air in

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: slapping and tapping - finger/s

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: hollow spheroid vessel - with opening/s

Sound objects per instrument: one

Resonator design: sonorous object itself is a general resonating space

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: striking - direct

Sound exciting agent: beater/s - both palm/s of hand/s and finger/s

Energy input motion by performer: slapping and tapping - finger/s

Pitch of sound produced: indefinite pitch

Sound modification: none


14.3 in. height 33.5 in. greatest circumference 9 in. circumference of neck 0.38 in. average thickness of wall

Primary Materials



Latin Percussion (LP), Inc.


LP udu® drum claytone #3

Entry Author

Gaelyn Hutchinson