Udu Drum: My Best Souvenir from Africa

Travelling is my passion, and all my friends know that. Every time I go for a new trip they make me a long list of gifts and souvenirs to bring. Usually, there are magnets, postcards, local alcohol or chocolate, but once, going to safari in Africa, I have received a very unexpected order.

Bring me an Udu Drum’, asked my best friend, when he heard I was going to Nigeria.

Really? A whole drum in my luggage? Are you kidding me? Actually, I was expecting something small. Can I bring you an African tribal mask instead?

No, I want an Udu drum, it’s special for Nigerians. Find a small one to fit into your backpack

In case you didn’t know, Udu drum is also called the Nigerian-origin Udu Utar drum. Well, my friend seemed to be very determined and excited about my new travel destination, so it was hard to argue.

After my wonderful photo safari tour, I had a few more days in Nigeria. I made friends with a local guide and decided to ask him, where I can find that special souvenir. I pointed out that I need a real one, not a toy for tourists since my friend was really fond of ethnic music. My guide smiled at me.

So, you want some local experience’, he said. ‘Let me take you for a trip. Tonight is the night’.
I thought we would go to some local market, but surprisingly, we went to see a rural Igbo tribe, the ingenious inhabitants of Nigeria, instead.

Although Christianity is the main religion of Nigeria, rural tribes still believe in Great Spirit and perform feasts and ceremonies to honor the Earth. I was the only white person to attend a special ceremony conducted that night, and it was a magical and very intimidating experience. All the tribe, wearing little clothes, traditional body painting and big masks made of wood and fabric gathered around a big open fire. They spoke the language I couldn’t understand, but I really enjoyed its sound. And then I heard the first beats of the drums. I always love listening to drums and percussion. Gracious Igbo women went dancing around the fire, playing some kinds of water jugs with additional holes. The jugs seemed to be very light, as they were made of clay. The women’s palms and fingers were tapping in a fast rhythm, and soon more instruments joined the music jam.

‘This is ùdù, which is translated from the Igbo language as ‘vessel’’, explained me the guide.
‘I think, I need two of those’, said I impressed by the wild tribal sound and the energy. ‘Can I buy them here?’

In a few weeks, I came home with two jugs in my backpack. My friend still plays his udu drum in his band. As for me, I take my udu from the shelf time to time, especially, when I am being nostalgic and want to recall my traveling adventures. It always reminds me that the world is much bigger than it seems, way more diverse and magical.

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