Djembe History

Djembe HistoryWhat is a djembe?

A djembe is a goblet shaped drum played with the bare hands that produces a variety of tones.

Where did the djembe come from?

The djembe had its beginnings in West Africa. The Bambara (or Bamana) people of Mali claim that the name“djembe” came from a saying “anke dje, anke be”, which translates to “everyone gather together in peace”.

What was the djembe used for?

With its expressive voice and versatile sound, the djembe was (and still is) used to accompany dancers and singers at weddings, funerals, births, and seasonal festivals, such as planting and harvesting.

How are djembes made?

Originally, djembes were carved by Mandinkan blacksmiths from a single piece of African hardwood. It is also believed that the blacksmiths custom-made the drum for each musician and that they made offerings to the spirits of the trees they cut down during the carving process.

The drum head (or membrane) was most commonly made from animal skin and attached to the wood via a strip of rawhide, sinew, or intestines.

These days, most djembes are made from synthetic materials (such as fiberglass for the body and FiberSkyn for the drum head) and the drum head is usually attached with polyester or nylon rope.

The typical djembe is between 23 and 25 inches tall with a drum head size of between 12 to 15 inches.

What sounds does the djembe make?

The djembe has three main sounds:

  1. bass (low pitch) – produced by striking near the center of the drum head with the palm and flat fingers
  2. tone (medium pitch) – produced by striking near the edge of the drum head and making contact with most of the fingers and edge of the palm
  3. slap (high pitch) – produced by striking near the edge of the drum head and making contact with the edge of the palm and finger tips

Where can I learn more about the history of the djembe?

Learn more from these sites:

  1. Djembe on Wikipedia
  2. Drum Connection - History of the Djembe
  3. Drum Dr. - History of the Djembe