Djembe Drums

introduction to African drumming

The Djembe (sometimes spelled jembe) is a West African drum that is believed to have come from the Malinke people in the Northeast of Guinea. The Djembe migrated to the Mali empire in the 9th Century and is now found in Senegal and the Ivory Coast. Traditionally made of carved hardwood and covered in goat skin, the Djembe's sharp, bright sound and dynamic range of colours made it an ideal drum for healers, storytellers, accompanying dance, and for communicating between villages. The Djembe has become the most popular African drum to be played outside of Africa, spreading around the world to become the hallmark instrument of the worldbeat movement. Since at least 500 A.D., the Djembe has been used in healing ceremonies, rites of passage, ancestor worship, warrior rituals, and social dancing. For vegetarians like myself, or those who like their drums weatherproof, some excellent synthetic heads are available. Synthetic heads also don't have to be retuned as often.

how to play the Djembe

There are three basic strokes used on the Djembe: slap, tone and bass which are made by hitting the drum in different ways. To get a bass tone, flatten your hand and strike the drum directly in the center. This should produce a deep, hollow sound. The tone has a higher pitch: cup your hand slightly and hit the edge of the drum with the center joints of your fingers touching the point where the drumskin meets the edge. This slap is the most difficult sound for beginners to made but it will get better with practice :-) It is made by quickly swiping the area of the drum between the center and the edge with your third, fourth and pinky fingers. When playing remember to slightly tip the drum so the sound can go through the bottom.

Master Djembe Players: African Music on CD

Drums of Passion
by Babatunde Olatunji

Guinea: Malinke Rhythms & Songs
by Famoudou Konate & Hamana Dan Ba Ensemble

Mandingo Drums, Vol. 2: Foliba
by Adama Drame

Air Mail Music: African Drums
by Madou Djembe

Djembe: African Percussions
by Djembe

Drum Call
by Nurudafina Pili Abena

Jebebara - The Bamana Djembe
by Abdouli Diakite

African Drums
by Mamady Ijalit Ketia

Buy a Djembe

carved wood djembe This medium size Djembe from Pro Bali Drums has a good bass and all the Djembe tonal ranges. It measures 20" Tall and 10-11" across the top with a playing surface of 9-10". It has a goatskin head and a special braided core non stretch nylon alpine (6mm) that has been tested to be the best possible rope to use to keep the drum in tune. The wood is kiln dried to insure no cracking. Government inspected plantation mahogany is used. It is a very stable hardwood, excellent for producing the perfect sounds of this drum. 30 day guarantee on the head and 90 days on the body is included.

This one is on sale at Pro Bali Drums for about $75.

Rope Tuned Paulo Mattioli Djembes are very lightweight and portable, and are equipped with an easy to carry woven rope handle. It comes with a NUSKYN Tucked Type 8 drumhead, the ultimate in synthetic drumhead innovation. The type 8 drumhead is made like the traditional tucked animal heads, wrapping the film around a steel flesh hoop that adds extra durability and longevity to the head and produces crisp slap tones and round full bass and open tones This drum is a large 27" tall and 15" across the top. Remo also sells drum straps, djembe bags and drum stands.

remo festival drums

If you're looking for an inexpensive drum that's portable, durable and pretuned, check out Remo's Festival Djembes. They range in size from small (14" x 8"), medium (20" x 10") to large (21" x 12") and in price from around $60 to $110.

Other drums heard in traditional African music include the Djun-Djun, Ashiko, Talking Drum, Ngoma and Nesting Drum.

Books, CDs, DVDs & videos to help you learn to play the Djembe

The Djembe Guide
by Ianto Thornber
The Djembe Guide is a resource book for anyone involved with the djembe, from novice players to the leaders and members of intermediate level groups.The Djembe Guide assumes no prior knowledge of the djembe, or of music, but guides the reader carefully on a deliberate course of learning, from the first steps and simple exercises, through easy patterns for small groups, and on to playing genuine West African multi-part rhythms in a drumming ensemble. Rhythms and exercises are presented in a clear, easy to understand system, developed specifically for this book, combining elements of oral tradition and simple tableture, so you don't have to read musical score. It includes chapters on the background to this fascinating drum, and it's recent rise to popularity outside the homelands of West Africa, and gives advice on finding, tuning and maintaining a drum of your own. The Djembe Guide is the culmination of 5 trips to Africa and more than twelve years drumming experience by the author, in community groups, performance groups, in public classes, and in education. With it's enclosed CD, simple tabulature, and profuse illustrations, The Djembe Guide really works, to get you drumming, and is the next best thing to a personal tutor.

How to Play Djembe
Book & CD set by Alan Dworsky, Betsy Sansby & John Camara
This book teaches you the basics of Djembe drumming and includes a great sounding CD to play along with that's mixed so you can adjust the balance on your stereo to hear one drum part at a time. An excellent introduction to playing the djembe.

Remembering How to Drum: Djembe Technique with Michael Taylor
This DVD provides a study of traditional Djembe technique, enabling you to play with confidence and clarity. It includes the following exercises:
- Interactive Ensembles that allow you to hear only the drums you want and silence the rest. For instance, hear all drum parts, Djembe only, or just Dunun. Eight options total!
- Basic Yoga warm-ups chosen especially for Djembe drummers.
- Infinitely looping practice rhythms appropriate for all levels, beginner through advanced.
- Develop bass, tone, and slap in order to speak clearly on the drum.
- Question & Answer exercise designed to get you "out of your head" and into the feel of the music.
- Ghosting exercises in binary & ternary.
- Polyrhythmic & polymetric exercises.
- Complete maintenance & tuning instructions.

Master Drummer Series: Thione Diop Teaches Djembe and Dunun Rhythms of Senegal
Thione Diop teaches you five traditional Senegalese rhythms passed down from many generations of Griots. Watch and learn as Thione plays the rhythms Aconcon, Diba, Djan, Kotoba, and Wango. Karaoke style notation: Follow the notes as they are played; pick up wherever the rhythm is and never be lost again. Easy menu navigation using your remote. Each rhythm has an intuitive menu to get to the part you want to learn. Over 70 different videos and over 240 audio tracks to choose from. Each part plays in a loop so you can keep practicing the same part without touching the remote. Two djembe accompaniments per rhythm. Dunun rhythms have separate parts for the dununba, sangban, and kenkeni. Each part has SLOW and FAST versions. Ensemble videos include all djembe and dunun parts playing the rhythm. Choose to hear different combinations of drums by utilizing the adio tracks on the DVD. Thione solos to some of the fast rhythms. The "Rhythm Info" section is of Thione talking about the rhythm's origin and when it is played. Information of when to play the part in relation to the break is also included. There are four audio tracks per part. Play the part alone, or with the other instruments. Each instrument is mixed for separation so you can hear the relationships.

John Yost Teaches: West African Rhythms / Instructional Djembe and Dundun DVD Video
John Yost is a facilitator, rhythmatist and educator. He has performed and recorded nationally. As a facilitator, John has facilitated rhythm based events in various settings in many parts of the world. He has studied in Africa , Japan and the U.S.A. with numerous master drummers. You can easily navigate through this DVD to find the rhythms you want to play using your remote. Each part has SLOW and FAST versions so you can easily follow along. The "Rhythm Info" screens give information of the rhythm's origin and when it is played. Information of when to play the part in relation to the break is also included. If you're a beginner, follow the notations at the bottom of the screen while playing the "slow" versions; as you gain skills, play along with the faster sections.
The Quick Guide to Djembe Drumming
DVD featuring Steve Leicach
Learn the essential drum tones, a diverse assortment of African rhythms, and Steve's highly effective singing and drumming exercises. Topics covered include natural tone, bass, slap and touch strokes ~ "In Time" and "Free Flow" improvisation exercises ~ traditional Kakilambe, Econcon, and Lendjien rhythms presented with cultural introductions, individual parts, and group performances ~ interviews offering insights into the world of Djembe drumming. There's also an internet component that offers notation of the rhythms, special Djun Djun (bass drum) parts, further "In-Time" and "Free-Flow" exercises, special question and answer opportunites, and more. For beginning through intermediate skill levels.

Hands on Drumming Volume 1 (VHS videotape)
An excellent introduction to hand drumming by master drummer Paulo Mattioli. And for you experienced drummers, there's Volume 2, Volume 3and Volume 4 :-)

Have Fun Playing Hand Drums
Book & CD set for Playing the Djembe, Conga, and Bongo Drums (CD & book)
Geared towards the novice drummer, basic drumming and rhythm concepts are explained very clearly and simply in the well illustrated book and the CD includes graduated exercises and play-along tracks. This would make a wonderful introduction to hand drumming for children.

Hip Grooves for Hand Drums
How to Play Funk, Rock & World-Beat Patterns on Any Drum
Here are instructions for beginning hand drum players who want to play rhythms with contemporary music. All you need is one drum -- a djembe, a conga, or anything else you can get both your hands on. Whether your goal is to play in a band, jam in the park, or just drum along with your favorite CDs, this book will show you how, step by step. Includes dance grooves and others based on traditional African or Afro-Cuban rhythms. Includes book and CD.

Mamady Keita: Malinke Rhythms from Guinea Volume 1
Mamady Keita: Malinke Rhythms from Guinea Volume 2
Learn the rhythms and history of the rhythms of the Malinke of modern day Guinea and Mali from a brilliant djembe master who also happens to be a great teacher. The DVD allows you to view parts for each instrument (djembe 1, djembe 2, sangba, kenkeni and dununba).
Volume 1: the rhythms Toro, Dalah, Fe, Soli lent, Gidamba, Sunun and Djole.
Volume 2: the rhythms Sosonet, Yankadi/Makru, Konden 1, Djabara, Djagbewara, Maraka don, and Mamaya.
Here are instructions for beginning hand drum players who want to play rhythms with contemporary music. All you need is one drum -- a djembe, a conga, or anything else you can get both your hands on. Whether your goal is to play in a band, jam in the park, or just drum along with your favorite CDs, this book will show you how, step by step. Includes dance grooves and others based on traditional African or Afro-Cuban rhythms. Includes book and CD.

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