For me traveling is a not just a fun pastime. It is a lifestyle. I want to do all my favorite things when I travel – take photos, message my friends and play music.
I am a cello player, and as it is not really possible to take a huge instrument with me, I have found something smaller and lighter. After practicing different ethnic drums, I’ve chosen Udu. My favorite one is the Meinl udu.
The origin of the Udu Drum goes back in time when people used to talk to spirits by the means of music and dance. Its relaxing and hypnotizing sound comes from the land of Igbo tribe in Africa.
This pottery drum if quite fragile, however, I have a special case to carry it with me. Although many people buy European versions, I prefer the traditional one, hand-made in southeastern Nigeria.
In the language of Igbo “udu” means pot. Basically, it is just a water pot with an extra hole that makes amazing sounds.
As a woman, I feel proud to know how to play an Udu drum. Traditionally only females could produce this kind of drum (as well as the rest of the pottery). They collected clay as a part of a special ceremony in a sacred place. In Igbo culture, it is said that making pottery is dangerous for men. More than that – men were not allowed even to be present in the pottery workshop not to offend women. The biggest danger was to get under the ladies’ spell and become impotent.
The Udu Drum used to have a spiritual function – it was played during the rituals and ceremonies of the tribe. With its help people asked for a better life, talked to their ancestors and gods, and deep haunting sounds of the drums seemed to be responses from another world.
Even today sounds of the Udu Drums are used to praise God in Christian churches (most of Igbos now are Christians). It is also not a female prerogative anymore. In Nigerian bars you can hear men playing pots, entertaining the audiences.
While I am traveling, I love playing my Udu Drum on the streets, in hostels or in the houses of people, who host me. I enjoy telling stories about the mythical origin of the drum. Mysterious thing, but with my special Udu Drum (named Lilu, by the way), sent to me by my friend from Nigeria, I have never feel alone or bored. Every time when I want a company, I start playing, and the company finds me. It’s with me on every vacation I take.
Being a kind of a busker, a wandering musician, I feel personal responsibility for keeping the tradition of Udu music. I am learning the traditional rhythms, however, I create my own during the jam sessions with old and new friends.
Traveling is life. Music is life too. The World is too big and interesting to spend your life in front of the monitor. Get up and go for an adventure! You don’t have to start from Nigeria, you can begin with some lessons in the music school nearby.