A "talking drum" is a drum which can be played with a variable pitch, allowing the tones to mimic sounds and patterns of speech. Talking drums originate in West Africa, and feature prominently in oral folk traditions amongst the various peoples there. Variations in sound are produced through varying striking patterns, as well as personal adjustments to the tension of the drumhead. Differing dialects account for variations in the sizes and designs of talking drums throughout West Africa.
Dr. Turner acquired this talking drum during his travels in West Africa during 1951-52, and he is pictured with the drum in a photograph that accompanies an interview with Turner in the Chicago Daily Tribune (Latin American Music Traced to Origin-Africa: Professor Describes the Year's Research; Gladys Priddy, Chicago Daily Tribune, May 1, 1952, part 5 page 10W.)