Rain Drums of Ancient Southeast Asia

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Rain Drums of Ancient Southeast Asia

Our South End showroom  has just received a brand  new container from Thailand. Exciting new furniture and accessories abound, including these magnificent Rain Drums.

Dong Son Drums, also known as Rain Drums, are often casted from Bronze, and are usually decorated with tribal designs and images with themes of fertility, animals, war, deities, and nature.It is argued that the Dong Son culture of Vietnam entered the Bronze Age before any other part of South East Asia. Cast Bronze drums have been found at the most ancient Dong Son burial grounds, which date back to 1000 BC. This is how these drums were given the name “ Dong Son”. Throughout history, these drums spread throughout South East Asia, and took on different meanings based on various cultures.

Along with the Dong Son, the Karen people of Burma and Thailand used these drums to summon the rain, because of the unique, rain-like sound they make. This is how the common name of “Rain Drum” came to be. The Karen people also believe that the sounds of the drum are pleasing to the spirits or “nats”, who live in the trees and water.

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Karen man casting a Rain Drum, 1923

The drums are used for various ceremonies to summon ancestors, and for calling soldiers. A certain beat on the drum replicates the sound of marching soldiers, and is widely used as a trick to give the impression of a large army.

In Indonesia, the Rain Drums have been present for 2500 years. In Bali, which is primarily Hindu, there is a famous drum called the “Moon Drum”, that is known for its very large size. In the small Indonesian Island of Alor, “Moko Drums” play an important cultural role. A man who wishes to marry must present a Moko Drum to the woman’s family. Because these drums are hard to come by, many men or couples must leave the island in order to marry, because they cannot find or afford a Moko Drum.  Moko Drums are also heavily decorated with Hindu symbolism.

Across most primitive communities within South East Asia, possession of a Rain Drum signifies not only status and material wealth, but also the ability to communicate with and influence spirits and the powers that be. In fact, one village in Vietnam considered the ownership of a Rain Drum to be more impressive than owning seven elephants.  Although here in Boston, owning  just one elephant would probably win.

Today’s versions are modeled after drums from thousands of years ago, but in modern design they are commonly used as tables. Rain drums are great for side tables, coffee tables, and are especially common for the yard or garden. Adding a glass top is an option for making the drum seem more like a conventional table. A Rain Drum is a simple way to add a touch of exotic intrigue and rustic charm to any space.