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Dunun

Dunun (; plural dunun) (also spelled dundun or doundoun) is the generic name for a family of West African drums that developed alongside the djembe in the Mande drum ensemble.

A dunun is a rope-tuned cylindrical drum with a rawhide skin at both ends, most commonly cow or goat. The drum is played with a stick. Depending on the region, a plain straight stick, curved stick with flat head (similar to the stick used for a tama), or a straight stick with a cylindrical head attached at right angles near one end may be used to strike the skin.

Traditionally, the drum is played horizontally (placed on a stand or worn with a shoulder strap). For a right-handed player, the right hand plays the skin and the left hand optionally plays a bell that may be mounted on top of the drum or held in the left hand. The latter style is popular in Mali and originally from the Khassonké people.

Three different sizes of dunun are commonly played in West Africa.

  • The dundunba (also spelled dununba) is the largest dunun and has the lowest pitch. Typical size is 60–70 cm (24–28 in) in length and 40–50 cm (16–20  in) in diameter. "Ba" means "big" in the Malinké language, so "dundunba" literally means "big dunun".
  • The sangban is of medium size, with higher pitch than the dundunba. Typical size is 50–60 cm (20–24 in) in length and 30–40 cm (12–16 in) in diameter.
  • The kenkeni is the smallest dunun and has the highest pitch. Typical size is 45–50 cm (18–20 in) in length and 25–35 cm (10–14 in) in diameter.

Dunun are always played in an ensemble with one or more djembes.