The Udu drum comes from a larger family of African hand drums, and much like the large African drum family, they too contain different styles and types of drums. I'll introduce you to a few types of Udus and give a bit of backstory on this amazing instrument.
The most basic form of the udu, the water jar, is shown above. It is said that the udu evolved out of the common jar that women used to carry water to and from their villages.
Some folklore says that a women dropped a jar which created a small hole which in turn created the basic udu. You can hear the story narrated with udu music at the drums link found below.
The instrument was often used in ceremonial music and dances and is most often played by women only.
The Utar is just one variation of the standard jug style Udu. It produces the lowest pitch in this family of instruments and can be played similar to a cowbell. These drums are played by laying them flat across the lap of the performer.
The Udu drum can also come in various unique shapes like the one above. Designs like these offer many different pitches and tones, thanks to dual-chambers and textured tops.
The drummer usually rubs a paste on his or her fingers to create varying tones that would otherwise be harder to play.
Dual chambered drums offer a low pitched bass tone and a higher pitched tone, perfect for creating dynamic rhythms. In this way they are similar to bongo drums that are used to play more intricate patterns with varying pitches.
Below are a few videos I found online that will hopefully, help you as you begin to learn how to play this instrument.
This is probably one of the better instructional videos I've found. It actually comes from a music program designed for children, so keep in mind as you watch that it is intended for a younger audience.
It can become a little annoying at times, but overall he does a great job of showing you different techniques of playing and he even switches to a different Udu model in the middle. Definitely worth watching:
In this next video, Janelle Burdell does a great job of telling a little of the folklore behind the origin of this drum. She also lays down a pretty mean solo:
Youtube user Manminus shows you how he made his own Udu from a store bought jar for ten dollars. I was impressed by how well it sounded. I will definitely be buying a jar to try this out:
This is a pretty decent drum solo that will show you a few different techniques and methods from those in the previous videos:
These videos are a great starting point for learning how to play the Udu. You may also want to check out the How To Of Udu DVD for a more in depth approach to this drum.