One sunny July afternoon, I was walking in Agonlin, a village in the Zou Department of central Benin when I suddenly had a revelation. In front of me a ceremony was going on and in the centre of a circle of an assorted group of relatives, friends and onlookers, was a giant drum (around 1.90 meters high), made from wood and covered on top with a skin. Around it whirled young men in their prime. These young men held large drum sticks, sometimes in their left hand, at other times in their right hand, using them to beat their sato, at regular intervals, in rhythm with the boisterous music of other musicians, playing accompanying instruments. Among these instruments, there were three drums, called the danhoun, some castanets and some gongs. The merry-go-round lasted around four hours when suddenly the skin on the drum ripped. The music stopped immediately and after several minutes of drinking, everything was put away. I was really intrigued! I was so surprised that I wanted to find out more. I learned afterwards that this was a ritual drum played by orphans during funeral ceremonies for important people.
Today, the sato continues to be a sacred instrument and beware outsiders!!! Read More
One sunny July afternoon, I was walking in Agonlin, a village in the Zou Department of central Benin when I suddenly had a revelation. In front of me a ceremony was going on and in the centre of a circle of an assorted group of relatives, friends and onlookers, was a giant drum (around 1.90 meters high), made from wood and covered on top with a skin. Around it whirled young men in their prime. These young men held large drum sticks, sometimes in their left hand, at other times in their right hand, using them to beat their sato, at regular intervals, in rhythm with the boisterous music of other musicians, playing accompanying instruments. Among these instruments, there were three drums, called the danhoun, some castanets and some gongs. The merry-go-round lasted around four hours when suddenly the skin on the drum ripped. The music stopped immediately and after several minutes of drinking, everything was put away. I was really intrigued! I was so surprised that I wanted to find out more. I learned afterwards that this was a ritual drum played by orphans during funeral ceremonies for important people.
Today, the sato continues to be a sacred instrument and beware outsiders!!! After it is made, it is actually consecrated by religious communities before it is played. And no one is allowed to look inside because it harbours the spirits of the dead. This is why it is stored standing up and is only transported at night.

I was pleased to discover this information and I wanted to share it with you. I hope that you enjoyed discovering the sato with me, this instrument that defies time because it is unchanging. I would be pleased if you would send me your impressions of a similar instrument that you are crazy about in your country.

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

The Sato

The Sato

Canadian Heritage Information Network

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


Sato

The sato is a giant drum around 1.75 meters high.

Canadian Heritage Information Network
"Alexandre Sènou Adandé" Ethnographic Museum, Benin

Wood, animal skin
© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


Sato

Sato (Bass Drum)

Canadian Heritage Information Network
"Alexandre Sènou Adandé" Ethnographic Museum, Benin

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


The sato is a giant drum around 1.75 meters high. It is one of the largest drums in the membranophone category and has two forms, male and female. It is also sometimes hermaphroditic and displays its sexual attributes in a striking way.

This drum is played in an orchestra of the same name during annual ceremonies to commemorate the dead. On these occasions, the children of the deceased dance to the rhythms of other small drums, the gbehoun, ahlomidon, alangandan and the gong, jumping and hitting the sato drum using curved sticks. The orchestra is generally made up of 8 to 12 drummers (two per drum to allow for shifts). Two singers provide vocal accompaniment and sing excerpts related to death, to the influence of the dead on the living, etc.

The sato drum takes part in the passage of the deceased from the visible to the invisible world. For this reason, It is believed that those who have not had the benefit of funeral rites, thus guaranteeing their separation from this world and their transition into the next, might remain on earth to haunt the living.

The sato is played in the regions of Cove, Zagnannado, Abomey, Porto-Novo and the Valley of Ou Read More

The sato is a giant drum around 1.75 meters high. It is one of the largest drums in the membranophone category and has two forms, male and female. It is also sometimes hermaphroditic and displays its sexual attributes in a striking way.

This drum is played in an orchestra of the same name during annual ceremonies to commemorate the dead. On these occasions, the children of the deceased dance to the rhythms of other small drums, the gbehoun, ahlomidon, alangandan and the gong, jumping and hitting the sato drum using curved sticks. The orchestra is generally made up of 8 to 12 drummers (two per drum to allow for shifts). Two singers provide vocal accompaniment and sing excerpts related to death, to the influence of the dead on the living, etc.

The sato drum takes part in the passage of the deceased from the visible to the invisible world. For this reason, It is believed that those who have not had the benefit of funeral rites, thus guaranteeing their separation from this world and their transition into the next, might remain on earth to haunt the living.

The sato is played in the regions of Cove, Zagnannado, Abomey, Porto-Novo and the Valley of Ouémé and is a characteristic element of the Adja-Fon culture in southern Benin.


© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Understand that music is an expression in all cultures
  • Understand that the relationship between personal feelings and music transcends borders and cultures
  • Develop respect for music from a variety of cultural contexts
  • Examine traditional music practices in selected Francophone countries
  • Demonstrate geographical awareness by identifying Francophone countries
  • Be aware of the musical contributions of various cultural groups in their own community
  • Understand that all world music can be organized within a standard classification system

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans