How Amazonian drum communication sounds (and acts) like human speech

In the forests of the Amazon, West Africa, and Asia, villagers often beat on large drums to send messages miles away. While you may think that the patterns are similar to Morse Code, they're actually simplified versions of the villagers' spoken languages, "without consonants or vowels but with enough connection to the original language that speakers can reliably interpret what they mean." In newly published research, University of Cologne linguist Frank Seifart and his colleagues reveal how it's done. From Science:

All but one of the 20 or so drummed speech systems come from tonal languages, including Yoruba in Nigeria, Banda-Linda in the Central African Republic, and Chin in Myanmar. Spoken Bora has two tones, which are recreated using two different drums made from hollowed logs, called manguaré. The thinner “male” has a higher tone, and the thicker “female” has a lower one.

But tone alone isn’t enough to distinguish all the words a drummer might want to say. So Seifart and his colleagues looked at what he calls a “neglected” quality in linguistics—-rhythm...

The intervals between beats changed in length depending on the sounds that followed each vowel. If a sound segment consisted of just one vowel, the time after the beat was quite short. But if that vowel was followed by a consonant, the time after the beat went up an average of 80 milliseconds. Two vowels followed by a consonant added another 40 milliseconds. And a vowel followed by two consonants added a final 30 milliseconds.

These short durations are enough to distinguish the drummed messages for “go fishing” and “bring firewood,” which are identical in tone, but not in their ordering of consonants and vowels.

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Freaky drum set configurations that are totally metal

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Drumming in sync to Boomhauer

David Dockery perfoms drums in perfect synchrony to the mutterings of Jeff Boomhauer from King of the Hill. Over the course of 66 seconds I went from almost closing the tab to startled fascination to profound revelation at Dockery's unimaginable talent. Read the rest

Watch Dave Grohl's 8-year old daughter rock the drums with the Foo Fighters

Just when you thought rock legend Dave Grohl couldn't get any cooler, he went and brought an eight-year old kid onstage to play drums for a cover of Queen's "We Will Rock You" with the Foo Fighters. And, it wasn't just any kid, it was his own daughter, Harper. Read the rest

Willy Wonka dialogue as a sax and drum jazz duet

David Dockery performed a drum solo of the climactic scene in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Then Dan Felix upped the game with a saxophone accompaniment to the original. Read the rest

Fellow plays a tiny drum kit

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Watch multi-talented street performer juggle a drum beat

Fuman Musicoloco performing in Zaragoza, Spain.

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This drummer plays with more feeling than any other musician ever

Can you dig it? I knew that you could. (YouTube)

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Drum maniacs Buddy Rich and Ed Shaughnessy, 1978

The late great Buddy Rich and Ed Shaughnessy, who died earlier this year, burn up the skins on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, August 11, 1978. (via John Curley)

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