AGE: – 19th
CONSTRUCTION: – Bronze
DESCRIPTION: – Burmese Bronze frog or rain drum – one handle has been damaged (see picture), and age related wear
HEIGHT: – 42cm
WIDTH: – 51cm diameter
WEIGHT: – 5.2 kg.
Burmese Bronze Frog Drum or Rain Drum
The Burmese bronze frog or rain drum as it is sometimes referred to owe its name to the ornamental frogs which usually adorn the top of these drums is one of the oldest continuous art traditions in South East Asia, archaeological excavations have unearthed some of these rain drums in North Vietnam which indicates that the sophisticated techniques used in making these drums in this period show that they were in use even before the 6th century BC.
According to Franz Heger on completion of a study of the drums in 1902 he identified four distinctly different types. The earliest of the four types is known as Heger Type I and is characterised by the general form of a mushroom, this form is found at Dong Son in North Vietnam from this type of rain drum emerged three additional types. The Provincial Museum of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region boasts the largest collection of Bronze drums in the world. The total number of bronze drums discovered in Vietnam reached about 360 in the 1980s, among which about 140 were Dong Son drums.
The Karen Drum
This particular drum is Heger type III, better known as the Karen drum which is characterised by a less bulbous cylinder, with a protruding lip on the tympanum and three dimensional frogs at four equidistant locations around the periphery of the tympanum. Bird and star motives on top, two tiny elephants on side.
When played by the Karen people the drums are suspended by a rope from one set of lugs and allowed to hang freely just above the ground. The musician sits on the ground and steadies the drum by inserting his big toe through the lugs on the lower side of the drum. The tympanum is beaten with a heavily padded stick, while the cylinder is struck with thin strips of bamboo. It is thought that for over 900 hundred years the karen bronze drums were intermittently played to acknowledge the presence of royal personages in the lowland courts of Burma and Thailand.