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A sister trope to The Natives Are Restless, this harks back to the days in deepest darkest Africa, where the mood of the natives can be determined by their midnight drumming. If they're banging away on those puppies till the wee small hours, trouble is definitely brewing. The more anxious white people can be driven to nervous exhaustion by Those Infernal Drums (a good name for a band), but the moment you really worry is when they stop, suddenly. Sometimes we get to see the wild abandoned dancing of the natives.

They are also used by the natives to communicate, as the native guide will often grab plot-relevant info from them. Bush Telegraph might be a sub- or seperate trope.

No relation to the types of drums used in jungle music, like the Amen Break.


Anime and Manga

  • Invoked in the manga version of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind with the Doroks, a bizarre mashup of various "non-western" cultures who hold ceremonies involving frantic drumming and dancing as they prepare to besiege enemy cities.


  • The 1953 movie serial, Jungle Drums of Africa.
  • Airplane!. A brief scene has a native beating on drums as an analogy to a news broadcast.
  • In Carry On In The Jungle, after drumming has been heard, the bearers refuse to go any further, because the locals eat people. The expedition leader claims this is nonsense; there is no such thing as cannibals! The bearers counter that the first drum says "Lay the table for five" and the second one says "Yum-yum!".


  • The childrens' book by Graeme Base, Jungle Drums.
  • In Explorers of Gor, which took place in a Fantasy Counterpart culture combining Darkest Africa with the Amazon rainforest, the natives communicated via drum. Justified via "certain drum sounds correspond to the vowels of the language, and the drum rhythm mimics the rhythm of the native language."
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "Beyond the Black River," the Picts are communicating in drums, much to the displeasure of Conan and the others at the fort. To be sure the Picts are both white (a point lampshaded in the story) and in what would one day be Europe, but the trope is treated identically.
  • Heart of Darkness by Jospeh Conrad.
  • Tarzan has the dum-dum drums being played by mangani, the apes that raised Tarzan, at midnight gatherings.

Live Action TV

  • The Goodies episode with the 'The jockies are restless tonight".
  • In one Sesame Street sketch, Ernie is looking for Dr. Livingstone (who is that kind of doctor) to ask him an important question, with Bert reluctantly tagging along and wanting to go home at every setback. At the end, the drums are also beaten after Ernie asks his question, and Dr. Livingston remarks about the jungle being full of jokers.
    • Before that, however, one of the people they run into is Taxi Driver McGillicuddy. (Or however it would be spelled.) His identity clarified, they hear Jungle Drums:

 Taxi Driver: Those drums! Those drums! They're sayin', "Taxiiiii!" I tell ya, it's a jungle out heayuh.

  • Also turns up in an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E..
  • These occur during the Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch with explorers dining at a jungle restaurant.
  • Parodied in a Gilligan's Island episode. The castaways hear drums, implying an impending attack from the natives. Then the drums stop, at which point the Professor assures them that the attack has been called off. Cut to the natives with a broken drum, and a chief lamenting (via subtitle) that They Don't Make Them Like They Used To.


  • The Emiliani Torrini song and video, 'Jungle Drum'.
  • The Clyde Otis song, 'Jungle Drums'.
  • The Cadets' "Stranded in the Jungle" from 1956. Meanwhile, back in the jungle...

Newspaper Comics

  • Since The Phantom's base of operations is in Darkest Africa, these are often seen-heard conveying information across the jungle.
  • A Far Side cartoon where two explorers are going down the river while two natives on shore play the triangles. The caption reads "It's okay! Those are jungle triangles!"
  • A cartoon by Whitney Darrow invoked the communication angle by showing a fellow pounding away on a drum while another drummer tells a white explorer, "Momboango gives the news behind the news."


  • The bit with the natives playing drums as a sign of impending trouble was popularized by a 1918 melodrama, The Drums of Oude, apparently based on the Sepoy uprising.
  • In Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones, the natives' drums start beating faster every time Jones expends a bullet.

Video Games

  • The name of a level in Little Big Planet.
  • In World of Warcraft, a skilled leatherworker can make many kinds of drums and sound them during a battle to give his team various bonuses. A typical kodo steed is shown to have some attached to the saddle but they aren't usable (unlike Warcraft 3, where a drummer mounted on a kodo increased combat effectivenes of nearby troops.)

Western Animation

  • The Superman short, 'Jungle Drums'.
  • Jonny Quest episode "Pursuit of the Po-Ho". The jungle-dwelling Po-Ho Indians communicate using drums.


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