top of page

Gángan: The Talking Drum

Our primary project, "Gángan: The talking drum – A haptic interface for tonal language learning," endeavors to create an immersive, engaging learning experience for tonal languages by utilizing physical, touch-based interactions. This research builds on our previous success with "Ndewo Uwa {Hello World}: A Language-Based Chat Bot for Children of the Diaspora," which introduced young learners to African languages and cultures.

GÁNGAN: The talking drum is an hourglass-shaped drum used throughout West Africa.  The pitch of the drum can be altered by the tension on the strings while held by the drummer.  The drum's use of pitch and rhythm is often said to mimic the language and speech of the cultures who play it.  The GÁNGAN drum, specifically, is employed among the Yoruba of Nigeria and is a necessary element of ceremonial functions.



The Yoruba language, through Odu Ifa is primarily an oral tradition, and much of its knowledge has been transmitted through oral storytelling memorization and recitation. In 2008 UNESCO inscribed Ifa on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (originally proclaimed in 2005). However, this method of transmission is becoming increasingly endangered, as younger generations are less likely to learn and speak the Yoruba language. 



words -> tones

Using Python programming language we are developing a GUI that will convert words and phrases into tonal equivalents.



Participants from Cultural Contexts

Our study participants will be recruited from members of the African Diaspora who are currently invested in learning Yoruba through the practice of employing Odu Ifa in their cultural practices.  They guided through several recitations of Odu Ifa and prompted to repeat words that are spoken incorrectly via feedback from the Gángan device.



The African Diaspora

The Ifa religious corpus has spread throughout the African diaspora, particularly in the Americas, due to the transatlantic slave trade and subsequent migrations. It is estimated that there are over 100 million practitioners of the Orisa Religion and its derivatives in the Americas, and around the world. The number of practitioners in the United States alone is estimated to be around 500,000. The Yoruba language, which is central to the Ifa religious corpus, can be challenging for non-native speakers due to its complex grammar and tonal system. 



tones -> vibrations

In Arduino IDE we have developed a system to change tones into syllabic representations via vibrational feedback

bottom of page