Djembe is a drum instrument having its origin in the West Africa. It is a rope-tuned, skin-covered, goblet drum – a single headed drum which is played with bare hands. A Goblet drum has a goblet shaped body and is considered as the National Symbol of Egyptian Shaabi music. Djembe belongs to the Membranophone family of musical instruments. The name Djembe comes from two words “Dje” and “Be” meaning “Gather” and “Peace” respectively. Hence the folk saying “Everyone Gather together in peace” is used to represent the instrument.
The body of the instrument is carved of hardwood. The drumhead is made of untreated rawhide (animal skin that is not exposed to tanning). The skin is similar to parchment but lighter in colour. Usually the skin of buffalo, deer, elk or cattle is used for the drumhead. The Djembe has an exterior diameter of 30-38cm and height of 58-63cm. The Lenke, Djalla, Dugura, Gueni, Gele and Iroko wood are used normally for the body of Djembe. Drumhead is tightened using metal clips attached to the body of the instrument or rope as it was used traditionally.
Traditionally only men used to play the instrument. But rarely women also plays it nowadays. A Djembe can produce a wide variety of sounds and hence makes it a versatile drum. The three basic tones produced by a Djembe are “Bass”, “Tone” and “Slap” having low, medium and high pitches. The striking techniques and position decides the sound produced by the instrument. It is interesting to note that the Djembe maestros produce up to 25 different sounds using the instrument.
A Dunum always accompany a Djembe where it forms an ensemble with a number of other Djembes. One of the Djembes will be the lead instrument and others produce recurring rhythmic pattern called “accompaniment pattern”.
Let us now watch a basic Djembe Lesson