Summer Camp: An Introduction to Hambone

Intro to Hambone

Watch the video and then spend time practicing every day. It’s a good idea to watch the video several times, so that you get the feel and technique. 

Try playing along with Teilhard!

What the Heck is Hambone??

Hambone was created by enslaved Africans in North America. Forbidden to use their drums, enslaved people found ways to make rhythms with tambourines, bones, and body music such as hand clapping and body and thigh slapping, also called “Pattin’ Juba.”

In the days of slavery, families had to stretch the little food they were given, relying on their resourcefulness and creativity to survive under adverse conditions.

The hambone (the bone of a ham) was used to make a big pot of soup, which, with lots of water, and little scraps of vegetables and spices, was stretched to feed many families. That same hambone would be passed around and used repeatedly in different pots of soups, making something from nothing as a way of survival.

Hambone Hambone, where you been?

Been around the world and back again.

Hambone Hambone, what did you see?

A bunch of hungry children looking at me

 —

Hambone hambone what did you do?

I fell into a pot of stew

Hambone Hambone where did you go?

Out on the town to see the show

The term “hambone” was then adopted as the name of the system of improvised rhythmic body music and also because you slap your thighs which can resemble a ham roast.