DJEMBE – General Overview and History The djembe is one of the most popular hand percussion instruments today. Traditionally it is the drum of the Maninka people, dating back to the great Mali Empire of the 12th century. It is said to have originated in the area that stretches between western Guinea and eastern Mali, more specifically between Kankan, Guinea and Bamako, Mali. The djembe’s primary function has always been to make music for celebration and ceremony. It is most often accompanied with dunun and a variety of other instruments to complete the musical ensemble and it is traditionally played in conjunction with dance and song. The djembe is associated with a class of hereditary artisans know as Djeli (griots) who’s primary purpose is to retain the history of the area and it’s people through music. Like any music, djembe music and tradition has changed over time. Djembe popularity has spread throughout all of West Africa and it is now a staple instrument in the counties of Guinea, Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Ghana. Today it is used for both modern and traditional musical purposes. Like the guitar, trumpet or saxophone, the djembe is an instrument in constant metamorphosis. The latest example of this is the international acclaim that djembe has received throughout the world, a phenomenon that is creating an entirely new purpose for djembe. Djembes vary somewhat in shape and size according to region, however they all share certain characteristics. Djembes are carved out of a single piece of wood to take on a goblet-like form. The upper part is shaped like a large bowl, while the lower section flares out to an open ended hole. Through an intricate system of steel rings and laced cord, a goat skin is attached on to the bowl of the drum. With proper tuning, these instruments will produce three primary sounds; bass, tone and slap. Although djembe drumming can be found all over West Africa, Drumskull Drums chooses to focus primarily on the countries of Guinea, Mali, and Senegal. It is these areas which are currently in the forefront of their tradition. We have spent countless hours seeking out, working with, and creating a relationship with the premier carvers of these countries. The woods which we choose are considered by the masters to be the best. All finish work and final assemblage is meticulously performed by Drumskull Drums, a key characteristic which set our instruments apart from other imports. We are proud to say that we incorporate the best from Africa with the best from the USA to create the finest instruments in this class. From start to finish, DrumSkull drums are consciously designed to meet their full potential. For further reading on the history of djembe, DrumSkull Drums recommends the following excerpt written by Eric Charry. More in depth reading can be found in Eric Charry’s book Mande Music.

DJEMBE – Characteristic Features Guinea: Characterized aesthetically by their relatively straight design, djembes of Guinea have primarily retained the traditional Maninka features. While other countries choose to create djembes of deeper tone, Guinea is constantly moving towards a "tighter" sound. Through the combination of a more squared off bowl and a relatively small throat opening, these drums easily produce a powerful slap while maintaining a full range of tone and bass. In addition to their incredible sound, Guinean djembes have gained a reputation for their elaborate decorations. Wood: Haré (Khadi), Lenke (Lingué), Djalla (Akajou, Bois Rouge), Beng (Douki) Size: 12" to 14.5" in diameter X 23" to 25.5" in height Mali: Although certain djembes of Mali are, in appearance, very similar to those of Guinea, others take on a much rounder form in both bowl and stem. Despite this, these differences are not what distinguish a Malian djembe. If you where to pick one factor that differentiates the Malian djembe from those crafted in other countries, it must be noted for its larger throat size. The rounded bowl and larger opening facilitate strong bass and tone, exceptional volume and a more “open” sound. Wood: Lenke (Lingué), Haré (Guéni), Dugara, Djalla (Akajou, Bois Rouge) Size: 12" to 14.5" in diameter X 23" to 25.5" in height (smaller versions are also available) Senegal: While other countries have modified the original djembe shape very little over time, Senegal has sought to create its own style. Two such examples are the Bamana and the Wasulu forms that we offer. Although these drums are characterized by their long bowls and hour-glass shape, this aesthetic distinction also creates a difference in sound. Due to the length and size of their bowls, Bamana and Wasulu djembes produce an extra large bass and tone. The shape and style of the Senegalese djembes that we carry are unique to one carver, arguably the best carver in Senegal. Wood: Dimba Size: 12" to 14" in diameter X 23" to 25" in height (smaller versions are also available)