The djembe is not something you’ll find in your everyday drum kit but this drum definitely has earned its place in the drumming world. Originally from West Africa, the djembe has become a part of the global community. African drumming has gained a lot of attention these days so it is not surprising that djembe are gaining popularity. The name djembe, which means “everyone gather together in peace”, truly symbolizes the sound of these drums. Today on Drum Place we’re excited to share some of our findings about the djembe. Early this month we acquired our own work djembe to replace the bongos that had disappeared and found ourselves enjoying the beats of this drum. So without further ado we present to you 10 Things About the Djembe.
1. Djembe looks hard to pronounce but the “d” is silent. The word djembe comes from Bambara language with “dje” standing for the verb “to gather” and “be” translating as “peace”.
2. The djembe is an instrument but it is said to symbolize more than just its shell. Many players believe it represents three spirits. When played the djembe symbolizes the spirit of the drum’s maker, the animal the drum head’s skin is made from, and the tree that provided the wood for the body.
3. Did you know the djembe is also known as the “Devil Drum”? The reason is the djembe is traditionally made from a wood called Dimba, nicknamed “Devil Wood”.
4. While the djembe is easy enough to find a drum shop or online, the drum originally came from West Africa. The Madinka people have used these drums for centuries.
5. When playing a djembe there are three distinct tones that can be created: bass, tone, and slap. Depending on the drummer these can be used interchangeably or not at all. So what sound do you think is produced from hitting the center of a djembe? If you hit the center of a djembe you get a deep bass sound. Hitting the sides will produce a softer sound known as tone. Slap requires the drummer to hit the drum sharply and pull their hand back quickly to produce the most sharp, accented djembe sound.
6. The djembe is said to have been gifted to the Madinka people from a djinn. The genie taught them how to craft their djembe from parts of their surroundings.
7. What animal do you think is commonly used for the skin of a djembe? Surprisingly, goat is the animal used the most because they are said to have the toughest skin.
8. The djembe is considered to be a female instrument.
9. Djembes were loud enough to be used to pass messages between tribes near to each other. Interesting way to use an instrument to communicate between peoples.
10. What is a master djembe player called? A “djembefola”.
Interested in learning more about the djembe and other hand drums? Check out our selection of world drum books for more drum sheet music that uses drums that are out of this world.