Resonant Head Superstition

Resonant Head Superstition (Ty Vandenberg)

Title: Resonant Head

General Information about Item:

  • Magic Superstition
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: Nigeria
  • Informant: Hafiz Farel F. Shabazz
  • Date Collected: 3/1/18

Informant Data:

  • Hafiz Farel F. Shabazz- Master drummer and Director of the World Music Percussion Ensemble, is an ethnomusicologist, percussionist, performer, and lecturer. He is an initiated member of the Ancestral Shrine of the Ashanti Nation in Ghana, West Africa. Professor at Dartmouth College.

Contextual Data:

  • Cultural Context: Bata drummers share brotherhood IFA culture/society – believe they can invoke spirits that belong to individuals called “Orishas”. Three drummers with blessed hands play specific beats and chants that call upon the spirits to come down and hypnotize them. This magic superstition is shared among all spiritual Bata drummers, as turning the drum upside down, or on its resonant head, brings very bad luck to not only the drum but the drummer who owns it.
  • Social Context: Professor Shabazz told us about this magic superstitions when we steered the conversation more towards superstitions rather than rituals. He told us that each of the 3 Bata drummers holds each other accountable for the maintenance of their drums, specifically making sure each other’s drums are NEVER left on their resonant head upside down.


  • The Bata drum is a double sized drum that is only used for religious and spiritual purposes and is never to be played by anyone else except for the Bata drummer who owns it. It is believed that if the drum is left upside down on its resonant head, then that drum is cursed and will bring bad luck to any man that plays it thereafter. Often times the drums will be destroyed or banished if this is too happen so it does not interfere with their religion or spiritual activities in the future.

Associated file (a video, audio, or image file): See Sacred Bata Drums item




  • “One of the superstitions that comes to mind is the bad luck that comes from leaving the drum upside down on the wrong head. If this were to happen, not only would the drum be banished or removed from spiritual ceremonies, but often times, actually, the drummer will be replaced by a different drummer, because his hands are no longer sacred or blessed.”

Informant’s Comments:

  • The Bata drum is very special to Shabazz. He has his own at home that has been passed on through decades, and no one else is to touch this drum. He feeds the drum and keeps it safe and locked away in his home.

Collector’s Comments:

  • The idea of bad luck coming from the drum being placed upside down was fascinating because it is extremely similar to modern day rock drummers who would never dare to play on their resonant head, or else it is believed they will have a bad performance or show.

Collector’s Name: Ty Vandenberg


  • Magic Superstition
  • Bata Drums
  • Resonant Head