Log Drum: The New 808?

By @SabeloMkhabela_ on 08/03/2023 in Article

Of course not, the 808 is incomparable and two legends can co-exist. But, the rise of the log drum into prominence is gradually changing the sound of popular music globally, the same way the TR-808 drum machine did. 

J. Cole and Bas are the latest Western artists to jump on the log drum craze in their Amapiano-by-way-of-Afrobeats single, ‘Passport Bros’. The list of non-Amapiano songs, local and international, which have used the log drum is quite long. Lojay, Sarz and Chris Brown’s ‘Monalisa’, AKA’s ‘Lemons (Lemonade)’, Davido’s ‘Unavailable’ (featuring Musa Keys) are some of the most obvious recent examples. 

The log drum’s widespread use is almost similar to that of the TR-808, a drum machine that was once looked at as a failed product, but is now a standard in popular music; it defines genres such as Trap, Drill, EDM, R&B and Pop. 

Maybe the log drum came at a time when the world was hungry for a drum kit as unique, versatile, infectious and capable of a mean roll, as the 808. 

Just another “African drum”

Before Amapiano became popular, it existed and was defined by the heavy use of organs. But, as history tells us, Mdu AKA TRP stumbled upon the log drum plug-in and the presets that make it bang like it does on FL Studio and changed the trajectory of Amapiano and essentially effected the sound of popular music globally. 

The log drum, sometimes referred to as a slit drum (because it’s a hollow drum with a slit), had been used in many indigenous genres across the globe such as  Nigeria’s Ekwe music, but it was just another “African drum” that didn’t matter much in contemporary music. 

In popular music, you may recognise the log drum from ‘Shape Of You’ by Ed Sheeran where it sounds very close to its normal form. But, South Africa’s dance music is usually driven by bass, isgubhu, so in the hands of our producers and their magical presets, the log drum is a speaker-rattling dose of happiness that gives Amapiano its character. 

It now forms the framework for most Afro-pop all across the continent and other parts of the world, most notably Nigeria’s Afrobeats/Afro-Fusion. The log drum has gone on to give popular music a new accent, it’s the one aspect of Amapiano that all adopters seem to gravitate towards. 

Log Drum, Not Necessarily ‘Piano 

On ‘Lemons (Lemonade)’, AKA had some words for rappers (or just a rapper) who “showed their true colours” when they “switched to ‘Piano like vultures.” The irony was that he rapped those words over a log drum-bolstered beat. 

A line like that shows that borrowing elements from a genre doesn’t always equal to adopting it. Kwaito borrowed the Korg M1 Synthesiser from disco but Kwaito was not disco. The log drum is now a popular drum kit popularised by Amapiano and can be used in many genres. 

So, maybe we are thinking small here; what we’ve gifted the world isn’t a genre but a sonic accent, the same way Trap did with the TR-808 which had been used since the 80s and 90s by the likes of Public Enemy, Run-DMC, Marvin Gaye, UB40 etc., just not in the same way as Lil Jon, Zyatoven and Metro Boomin. 

Diplo, Skrillex, David Guetta and other EDM producers use 808s but they don’t necessarily make Trap, the genre just lent an influence. Similarly, songs like ‘Dor Do Povo’ by Maglera Doe Boy and Ason, ‘By Your Side’ by Ckay and Blxckie or ‘For My Hand’ by Burna Boy and Ed Sheeran borrow from ‘Piano, but aren’t Piano per se. 

The same way Hip-Hop took a failed product and made it the accent of modern popular music, Amapiano took an obscure instrument that has been on FL Studio for years and repackaged it as the new sound of cool. At this point, make peace with the fact that it’s a widespread sound and people won’t always send South Africa a shoutout when they use it.

Check out our playlist of songs from different genres that make us of the log drum: 




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