10 Interesting Facts about African Drumming

One of these following facts about African drumming might have given you much information about this African instrument. African drumming, or also known as djembe, is a rope-tuned skin-covered goblet drum played with bare hands, originally from West Africa. According to the Bamana people in Mali, the name of the djembe comes from the saying, “Anke dje” which translates to “everyone gather together in peace” and defines the drum’s purpose. In the Bambara language “djé” is the verb for “gather” and “bé” translates as “peace”. To get to know more about this instrument, here are some facts about African drumming you might be interested in.

Facts about African drumming 1: Djembe Body

The djembe has a body (or shell) carved of hardwood and a drumhead made of untreated (not limed) rawhide, most commonly made from goatskin. Excluding rings, djembes have an exterior diameter of 30–38 cm and a height of 58–63 cm.

Facts about African drumming 2: Wide Variety of Sounds

The djembe can produce a wide variety of sounds, making it a most versatile drum. The drum is very loud, allowing it to be heard clearly as a solo instrument over a large percussion ensemble. The Malinke people say that a skilled drummer is one who “can make the djembe talk”, meaning that the player can tell an emotional story.

Facts about African drumming - Decorated Djembe

Facts about African drumming – Decorated Djembe

Facts about African drumming 3: Part of An Ensemble

Traditionally, the djembe is played only by men, as are the “dunun” that always accompany the djembe. Conversely, other percussion instruments that are commonly played as part of an ensemble, such as the shekere, karignan and kese kese, are usually played by women.

Facts about African drumming 4: Origin

There is general agreement that the origin of the djembe is associated with the Mandika caste of blacksmiths, known as Numu. The wide dispersion of the djembe drum throughout West Africa may be due to Numu migrations during the first millennium AD.

Facts about African drumming - Djembe with two-ring mounting

Facts about African drumming – Djembe with two-ring mounting

Facts about African drumming 5: Emigration

In the United States, Ladji Camara, a member of Ballets Africains in the 1950s, started teaching djembe in the 1960s and continued to teach into the 1990s. Camara performed extensively with Babatunde Olatunji during the seventies, greatly raising awareness of the instrument in the U.S.

Facts about African drumming 6: Sound and Striking Technique

For its size, the djembe is an unusually loud drum. The volume of the drum rises with increasing skin tension. On a djembe tuned to solo pitch, skilled players can achieve sound pressure of more than 105 dB, about the same volume as a jackhammer.

Facts about African drumming - Dundun

Facts about African drumming – Dundun

Facts about African drumming 7: Role in Traditional Ensemble

Traditionally, the djembe forms an ensemble with a number of other djembes and one or more dunun. Except for the lead (or solo) djembe, all instruments play a recurring rhythmic figure that is known as an accompaniment pattern or accompaniment part.

Facts about African drumming 8: Tuning

Traditionally, the djembe forms an ensemble with a number of other djembes and one or more dunun. Except for the lead (for solo) djembe, all instruments play a recurring rhythmic figure that is known as an accompaniment pattern or accompaniment part.

Facts about African drumming - Fiberglass Djembe

Facts about African drumming – Fiberglass Djembe

Facts about African drumming 9: Decoration

Instead of trimming the skin off above the crown ring, the drum maker can fold the skin over so it covers the crown ring. This is done for aesthetic purposes; the fold-over does not serve to hold the skin in place.

Facts about African drumming 10: Acknowledge Masters

Recordings of the traditional village style of playing, with just one djembe and one konkoni, performed by acknowledged masters.

Facts about African drumming - Lenke Djembe from Mail

Facts about African drumming – Lenke Djembe from Mail

Hope you would find those African drummming facts really interesting, useful and helpful for your additional reading.



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