Rare and Old African Drumming Photos

​African drumming itself is thousands of years old, but its history has only been captured on film in the last hundred years or so, as these old African drumming photos show.

We've searched the archives ​to find the best rare and old ​p​ics ​of musicians in African history. Some of these photos have little or no information attached to them. We can only enjoy them and wonder what became of the people in them.

Mesmerizing and inspiring. ​Share, comment and enjoy.

​If you have any more info or corrections on these photos, add them in the comments.

Susu djembe player and balafone player

​Susu djembe player and a balafon player. Its origin is unknown, but it was presented at the International Colonial Exhibition of Paris in 1931. It comes from the from the National Library of France. As far as old African drumming photos go, this is ​my favorite ​photo. It is also the oldest photo of a djembe ​I have found so far.

Susu djembe player and balafone player
An ensemble of three balafon players

​An ensemble of three balafon players in Cameroon, circa 1914.

An ensemble of three balafon players
Venda women playing drums in 1949

​Venda women playing drums​ at the Domba initiation school, 1949. Photo: Barbara Tyrrell / Peter Jurgens

Venda women playing drums in 1949
A snake charmer with drummers in Tangier Morocco

​A snake charmer with drummers in Tangier Morocco in the late 1800s. Photo by Tancrède Dumas.

A snake charmer with drummers in Tangier Morocco
African drummers in Sierra Leone

​African drummers in Sierra Leone. The caption reads '​Jazz band party happily dispensing music comical and thrilling, Sierra Leone' - whatever that means. Editor: LISK CAREW BROYHERS

jazz band party happily dispensing music comical and thrilling, Sierra Leone
Mendi drummers 1890 playing a sangboi, or tom tom

​​Mendi drummers playing a sangboi, or tom tom in 1890. The description reads: 'Showing a group of Mendi drummers with villagers standing behind them in the background: Mendis never tire of beating this drum - it is their one delight. I have known them up-country play through the entire night, and when gangs of men are sent out by the chief to work upon the roads they are invariably accompanied by the tom-tom beater who plays while they work, and so urges them to greater exertion'. From the RCS Photograph Collection.

Mendi drummers 1890 playing a sangboi, or tom tom
Young African boys with a military drum

​Young African boys with a military drum. I could not find much info on this picture. It looks more like an illustration.

Young African boys with a military drum
African drummers in old German East Africa

​Drummers of the Wanyakussa people, who live along the shores of Lake Malawi in East Africa. It is dated between 1906 and 191​4,​ and was taken​ by Walther Dobbertin. ​The original caption reads 'Locals, German East Africa'. It comes from the German Federal Archives.

African drummers in old German East Africa
Ethiopian drummers

​Ethiopian drummers. The original caption reads: Tom-tom and stick dancing rite of the priests of so called Christian Church. Ethiopian ritual is largely an affair of dancing. Each performing priest darts a long walking-stick into the ground, while he moves, with hieratic actions, to the music of tom-toms and barbaric mouth instruments and a chorus of hand-clapping acolytes. Holding themselves to be descendants of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, the Abyssinian clergy maintain round their sanctuaries the tradition of King David dancing before the Ark.

tom tom and stick dancing rite of the priests of so called
Ethiopian drummers
Egyptian drummer on camel with kettle drums

​Egyptian drummer on camel with kettle drums. As far as I can tell, this photo was taken at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chigaco in 1893 and the photo​ belongs to the​ Galvin Library. The original caption makes little sense to me, but I get the impression th​e drummer would be part of a wedding procession.

Egyptian drummer on camel with kettle drums
Drummers on horseback in Cameroon

​Members of the Mandara tribe on horseback in the town of Mor​a in northern Cameroon, circa 1911-1915.

Drummers on horseback in Cameroon
A rock painting from Zimbabwe of African drums

​A rock painting from Zimbabwe ​- we're not sure, but we think that is a drum in the middle. Photo by Steve Evans.

A rock painting from Zimbabwe of African drums
African drummers in 1936

​African drummers in 1936. Not ​a lot of info on this other than that the photo was taken by Attilio Gatti, an Italian explorer who travelled through much of Africa in the early 20th century.

African drummers in 1936
Women playing bougarabou drums

​Women playing bougarabou drums.

Women playing bougarabou drums
Ancient Gnawa Musicians

​Ancient Gnawa Musicians - indigenous musicians from Morocco.

Ancient Gnawa Musicians

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