What is a Tanbou?

Bonga with drumsWe get asked all the time: “What is a tanbou?”

The answer from Wikipedia is:

“A tanbou (Haitian Creole pronunciation: [tãbu]) is the national musical instrument and type of barrel drum from Haiti. The drum is used in many music genres of Haiti and has been influential in the rest of the Caribbean and Latin American world.”

For a little more context though:

The tanbou, or Haitian drum, is an important part of Hatian culture and should be preserved and played. The history of the drum in complex, and can be traced back to the African Vodun Systems. From a tanbou to sound right it must be created correctly, and are traditionally baptized.

The tanbout is a fun instrument to play and creates a very organic sound that can be used in a variety of ways. Some of them include: professiuonal recording, dance, pure entertainment, and healing. Kids have a great time playing them as well.

Here is a great video showing what great music that can be created using the tanbou:


The tanbout has been in use for 100’s of years and have been found in some of the oldest temples found in Haiti. Many prefer the sound of older drums to the newer ones.

There are many different kinds of tanbou drums, and each kind can be traced back to it’s African origins.

The drums are traditionally made with tronpèt, bwachen, or gomyé hardwood. The tops and then made from stretched cow or goat skin. The exact materials created under the specific conditions needed to produce a high quality, traditional tanbou can be very difficult to procure.

Bonga making drumFor this reason, finding a genuine tanbout in the United States can be very difficult and expensive.

Hopefully this short article gives you a better idea and answers the question: “What is a tanbou?”