The Ka’apor drum and the percussion of other peoples: an introductory study on the membranophone in indigenous contexts

Abstract Much of the ethnographic work on indigenous organology has a specific focus on wind instruments, but we maintain that the study of other indigenous musical instruments is also important. Among non-wind instruments, membranophones have received the least attention in ethnomusicology. This study describes the drum instrument of the Ka’apor people (Tupi-Guarani language speakers who live in the Alto Turiaçu Indigenous Reserve in Maranhão, Brazil) from an ethnomusicological perspective based on fieldwork and research in ethnological archives. We highlight the unique features and performative aspects of the Ka’apor drum alongside other membranophone instruments in other indigenous and quilombola contexts. We understand the myriad of purposes and applications of these instruments among different indigenous groups in lowland South America to represent both correlations and divergencies, depending on the particular cultural context. Because of the lack of identical relative intensity among the various approaches, modern ethnography requires a different approach to indigenous membranophones that puts these instruments on equal footing with studies of other indigenous musical instruments.