In short description, djembe is a goblet shape hand drum. It is originated from West Africa. It has cow skin drum head or goat skin drum head. The drum head is pulled for tension using ropes, mechanical tuning or industrial quality glue. The strongest part of the goat skin is the spine area of the skin. Hence most of the skin drum head is the spine skin part. The more tension created, the higher the tones of the drums. Djembe basically has 3 types of tones: low (bass), mid and high pitch (slap). The combination of the 3 tones creates Africa rhythms.
The outer shell of the wooden drum can be painted or carved. Bali Treasures’ djembe is painted and carved by master carver & painter families in Ubud. The decoration of the outer shell adds additional value to the customers’ eyes. The djembe sometimes have metal and jingles attached to the outside or seeds and beads placed inside the djembe drum. The drum rhythm is mostly associated with African dance.
HOW TO PLAY A DJEMBE
First of all, make sure that the drum head is clean and tuned correctly. If you are not sure you can find someone who knows how to tune a djembe correctly. The West African djembe has three basic sounds.
You have to know that the sound comes from the bottom of djembe and not from the top. Hence it is important to tilt the drum on its edge when you are playing it. Sitting on a chair is a good position to tilt the djembe so that the bottom side is open. Alternatively you can use a djembe stand to hold the djembe correctly.
The base sound of the djembe is the low tone by hitting the center of the djembe drum head using a flat hand. You better let your hand bounce once your flat hand strikes the center of the djembe so that the sound is maximized. The mid or open tone is created when you hit the edge of the djembe with your fingers.
The third tone is the slap tone. Slap tone is created when your fingers and hand strike the rim of the djembe to produce a high pitch tone. Next, you can learn various djembe drumming rhythms.
How We Make Our Djembes
Bali Treasures produces djembe from two materials. One is PVC and the other one is Plantation grown Mahognay and Jackfruit wood. Bali Treasures holds the global patent for making the drums from PVC. Making a wooden djembe is a long process from logwood to drum.
First of all the logwood is legally bought from the government. The log woods come in sizes. It is cut into desired heights and wood barks are peeled by both workers and machine. The logwood is then lathed using machine and hand carved by skilled workers to make a drum shell. The skilled workers lathe the logwood into many sizes and shapes according to the market demand.
The drum shell is then soaked in pesticide liquid for hours in order to exterminate bugs in the wood. The drum shell is then moved to a warehouse to let it stabilize and put in the oven to dry up the excess water content. Not to forget the drum needs to have a barring edge formed to create the proper djembe sounds.
Now the drum is ready to be fitted with goat skin drum head, painted or carved. Depending on the models the drum is carved by master carver into various models or painted into many creative designs. The process looks simple but needs a lot of attention and experiences to produce it.
The History Of Djembes
The precise origin of djembe is largely unidentified. Yet it is informed that the djembe drum originated with the Madinka people of western Africa around 1300 AD.
It is said at that at that time the king was King Sundiata, who ruled much over West Africa. The King was hailed a hero as his empire spread across over modern day Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia and Senegal.
The Mandika society was separated into castes of professions. The blacksmith caste (Numu) were the first to be linked to djembe. They played the drum only when smelting iron ore. Along with the migration of the Numu people, so is the spread of djembe drumming.
Overtime djembe drumming is popular in Numu people and the player of the djembe is called djembefola (djembe player).
Nowadays djembe is widely played by many people in Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, and Senegal.Soon the djembe drumming was introduced to westerners and some djembe experts and players moved to Europe to perform and make a living in there.