Also:       dondo      

Title: Anomabu Okyir Festival 8 October 1992; Adenkum Group. Label: Vetter field recording, 8/10/92. Format: Hi8. Catalog#: VC-1.

Title: Diaso Akosoa Tuntum group, 16 April 1993. Label: Vetter field recording. Format: Hi8. Catalog#: VC-9.

Title: Anomabu-Omanhene’s Funeral 29 May 1993. Label: Vetter field recording. Format: Hi8. Catalogue#: VC-10.

Contextual Associations

The donno is a double-headed membranophone; the pair of donno seen in the first gallery image originates from the Akan people of southern Ghana, who use them, often in pairs, for a variety of dance ensembles such as adowa, adenkum (video #1), akosoa tuntum (video #2), and kete (video #3). Donno also play a prominent role in puberty festivals amongst some Akan peoples where they are played by the majority of a village's female population in a rite of passage for girls. The music for this rite of passage is a distinct style of drumming and provides an example of the use of drums by females. While many of the Akan drumming ensembles are strictly male it is acceptable for females to play donno in ensembles like the adowa.


The tubular, hourglass-shaped drum shell of the donno is carved from a block of wood. Each of the heads is made from a mammal skin with the hair removed that is folded around a pair of rigid plant fiber hoops the diameter of which is a good deal larger than that of the opening in the drum shell that it covers. Rawhide lace is used to sew a head to its hoop, and the pattern of doing so leaves small loops around the rim of the hoop. Leather lace is then threaded through a loop on one hoop and across the length of the drum to a loop on the rim of the other head. This pattern is repeated over and over until the lacing runs all the way around the drum and the two ends of the lace are tied together. A single bent tree branch is used as a beater. In the Latin Percussion industrialized version of the donno, the traditional leather lacing is replaced by metal cable; the wood body is replaced by a thick and indestructible fiberglass one; and the drum heads are attached to a metal hoop instead of one made from rattan. However, Latin Percussion decided to use mammal skin for the heads instead of a more durable synthetic material. 

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The donno is a variable tension drum, meaning that its player can adjust the tension, and the resulting pitch, of the heads while playing.  The drum is held between the upper arm and the side of the body and struck with a hooked beater. Pitch can be altered by squeezing the lacing, thus tightening the membranes. Although similar drums are used elsewhere in Ghana and West Africa as talking drums, the donno is not used as a speech-surrogate drum by the Akan. Nonetheless, Akan drummers can and do produce pitched rhythmic patterns on this drum the inflections of which can sound like speech.


Double-headed, hourglass-shaped membranophones are distributed widely throughout western Africa. They are especially prevalent across the Sahel region of western Africa, and this might suggest that at some time in the past the instrument was introduced to the Akan cultural region from the north. Reflecting the international ‘world music’ fascination with the donno, an industrialized version of the Ghanaian drum manufactured by the Latin Percussion company is also pictured here. The company's stated goal is to manufacture instruments that sound exactly like the traditional ones on which they are modeled, but which will last much longer. Many delicate materials used in the manufacture of the traditional donno are replaced by ones of greater durability. The ‘industrialized’ donno by LP has no traditional associations and is used freely by its owners in any sort of musical setting they choose.

Bibliographic Citations

Nketia, J. H. 1963. Drumming in Akan Communities of Ghana. Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson and Sons LTD.

Vetter, Roger. 1996. Rhythms of Life, Songs of Wisdom: Akan Music from Ghana, West Africa. CD and booklet. Smithsonian Folkways SF CD 40463.

________. Anomabu, Ghana—Musicking in a Fante Community, accessed November 1, 2016,

Younge, Paschal Yao. 1992. Musical Traditions of Ghana, v.1. 2nd ed. Legon, Ghana: University of Ghana.

________, and Maria Billings. 2000. Ghana: Rhythms of the People. CD and liner notes. Multicultural Media MCM3018.


Instrument Information


Continent: Africa

Region: West Africa

Nation: Ghana

Formation: Akan

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: none


19.2 in. height (first instrument) 9 in. head diameter (first instrument) 16.9 in. height (second instrument) 9 in. head diameter (second instrument)

Primary Materials

membrane - mammal skin
lacing - rawhide


Latin Percussion

Entry Author

Toby Austin, Roger Vetter