UH80001 Burmese Karen Frog Drum, a fine bronze tribute drum (Heger Type III), Pazi (Burmese), pam klo’ (Karen) also known as “The Magical Bronze Pond”, the Karen subsiding on slash and burn agriculture were rain dependent, and “rain drums” were beaten to bring on the rains for frogs croak prior to rain and the low frequency drum sounds excite the frogs to croak as well, and thus it was believed that the beating of the drum was a call for rain. This lost wax casting of a drum is ornamented with 8 frogs stacked in twos and placed at four equidistant points on the outer edge of the tympanum, the center of which is decorated with a 12 pointed relief “star-of-foam”, the star points touch the first set of triple ridges resembling ripples that delineate concentrically the 15 die cast decorated bands in a variety of motifs, starting from the center the designs can be identified as radial rays (bands 1,8,12), tiny raindrops (bands 2,6,7,13), trellis pattern (bands 3,14), a complex pattern of three “fish filled birds”, alternating with three quarter sectioned lozenges (bands 4,9,10), ducks (bands 5,11), and the outer band (band 15) undecorated ending with a raised ridge and a braided edge. The sides of the drum are similarly decorated with sets of triple ridges in 3 zones with 18 die cast bands in between of radial rays, raindrops, trellis pattern, vegetation and waves, side double strap handles on opposing sides, used to suspend the drum when struck, two unadorned relief “seams” equidistant from the handles. Under one handle a braided stalk having a three dimensional procession, of two elephants followed by three snails.
The possibility exists that the original casting of this drum was meant to have stacks of three frogs around the tympanum, now only stacks of two exist, in addition it appears that three elephants were intended as well as three snails. Dark variegated verdigris greenish patina. One crack to the edge of tympanum, two frogs without heads, on the body pin holes and thin casting areas, some fortified and 4 cracks emanating from the base, one with some bronze loss, otherwise the overall surface patina is consistent with age and use, good condition with some losses. Note: It was customary for the Karen to bury pieces of a drum with the dead, for the drums were also used in funerary rites and it was believed that having a piece of bronze with the dead would protect the afterlife of the deceased. This drum may have been consistently modified for balancing out the proportions in having experienced just such a loss.
Measuring: 17-3/4 inches high x 22-1/8 inches in diameter. Weight: 29.5 lbs.
Late 19th. Century.
Mike Magerowski, Laurel, MD by descent from John Magerowski, Worcester, MA (purchased in Vientiane, Laos in the years between 1966 and 1970 while in service to the U.S. Department of State)
Rains come when frogs croak
Birds come when rains come
Fish rise when birds come
Floods come when fish rise
Elephants draw when floods come
Timber comes when elephants draw
The land prospers when timber comes.