African Drum History

 

The djembe has a great cultural heritage in Africa. Although similar in cultural use and significance to many countries and tribes on the African continent, it has minute but significant differences.

The Djembe is the drum of the Mandinka people, and its origins dates back to the great Mali Empire of the 12th century. The djembe is also known as djenbe, jembe, sanbanyi, jymbe or yembe. It is made from an single piece of wood and carved into the shape of a goblet that is hollow throughout with a skin covering over the top. The drum is played with bare hands.

Of all the African drums, the djembe has become extremely sought after in the Western world and is regarded as the most popular. This drum has inspired master drum makers now found all over the world.

The djembe below is made in Mali. In and around the Kayes region. The drum rhythm or Diansa is performed in the evening for most celebrations, example during full moon, spring, summer and winter harvesting time, weddings, baptism, honoring of mothers, immediately after Ramadaan (the month of fast for all Muslim brothers and sisters) or other celebrations. Dancing is the most popular form of entertainment and various rhythms and beats are played on the djembe. Similar type celebrations and cultural rhythms are applicable to Senegal as well as other regions of West Africa.

African goatskins from Mali are the most suitable for covering the playing surface of a djembe, due to central Africa having the perfect climatic and grazing conditions for the goats. The West African goat skin are also thicker and tougher and impacts greatly on the quality of the sound. The skins therefore undoubtedly, provide the very best sound. Skins used from other countries have poor sound quality and tends to break easily.

OilPainting_CAL_0002.jpg (27199 bytes)The painting below depict African drummers from the Wolof tribe, natives of Senegal. They use a skin drum and it is played with one hand and a thin stick. The drum is placed on the ground or strapped to the side of the body and is played whilst the fans or audience, mainly single women of marital age, do the "Sabar". A dance where women roll the hips, create sexual movements of the buttocks in a provocative manner, to entice males. Various forms of the dance take place in Africa during special celebrations.

Africanhat_OMA_0300.jpg (13262 bytes)The African hat to the left is typically worn by djembe enthusiasts, African musicians or as a fashion statement.

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