The size of the djembe drum which you decide to go for will depend on your size, ability, and, of course, the music purpose of the drum. Djembe drums can be played whilst sitting down and also standing up, with the aid of a djembe strap. Adults should, generally speaking, have larger drums where the heads are 12 inches or more. Young people should have the smaller drum, with head sizes of 7 to 10 inches. To determine what size drum head you should go for you will need to place the heel of your hand on the rim of the drum your fingers should just cross the centre of the drum. If you go for anything smaller your hands will be too large to achieve clean and distinct sounds.
Positioning of the drum between the legs is an important consideration when determining the best size djembe. Some people have short arms, and some have longer arms. One should make sure that the size they have selected matches a comfortable position from which their arms can strike out and hit the head from various angles. Some of the very agile are able to control the position of the drums, and actually move it, with smooth, minute squeezing and loosening motions of the knees against the drum’s body. It is possible to pick up the drum and beat it for an extra explosive resonance, by just using the knees.
Once the beginner has selected a drum size, he or she should spend a few days to allow their body to get use to drumming. One should play the drum from different positions, in the comfortable position of sitting down, to the awkward position of standing up. Doing this would help one fathom out if they have selected the right size drum. This brings forth the idea of the “Suzuki” method of learning music that was once popular. Little children learned how to play the violin and become familiar with the instrument by walking around with it while playing. The point here is simply that one’s body must get familiar with the drum. This is why size is important. The djembe is truly a spiritual instrument and one does not want to start off with it in an awkward relationship.
Size is an important factor to take into consideration when deciding on a djembe drum. Once this has been established you can then go on to decide if you would prefer a wooden djembe or a fibreglass djembe, roped tuned of mechanically tuned and finally the style of the djembe.
Djembe drums are now a common sight around the world. From small town America to rural Japan, these hand drums have found a strong passionate following.
What is it about that brings such a wide appeal? Where did they come from and what are their traditional role within mande society?
Hundreds of years ago a group of Mande people left the area between Northern Guinea and Bamako and headed towards the senegambia region.
These people became the modern day Mandinka people.
In the Senegambia region the Mandinka dance to a 3 drum ensemble, the kutirindingo, kutiriba & the sabaro.
These are very similar in appearance and playing style the sabar drum of the Wolof people who live in the same region.
The dancing of the Maninka of Mali and Guinea is done to drumming by dununs and djembes.
The dividing line of these two styles centres around the border town of Tambacounda in Senegal. To the west of Tambacounda the Mandinka ensemble is used more, to the east the Maninka ensemble is more widespread.
Fodeba Keita, founder of Les Ballet Africains, brought the djembe on tour in the 1950s. Ladji Camara, a lead djembe player from Les Ballet Africains relocated to the United States in the 1960s and there was and immediate in this type of music.
A surge of interest took place when Seckou Toure (Former players from the Ballets of Guinea, Senegal and Mali began to settle in western countries to teach and perform.
To this day, with few exceptions, drums are the instruments of choice for dancing.
Some dancing is playful (tulon)or entertainment (nyenaje). However some occassions for dancing and drumming are very serious.
Certain drum rhythms and their corresponding dances would traditionally have been performed for particular events. Each particular rhythm would have a certain time and place, such as circumcision or funerals.
These days rhythms and dances may be performed at a wider range of events.
Drumming is a communal event. Everybody present takes part and Participation in the form of clapping, dancing and singing. Through participation, you honour the people being celebrated.
Basically by pulling four of the vertical tensioning ropes across and over each other you gradually pull the skin down a little further.
(1) Undo the tuning rope which is coiled just under the middle – by threading and pulling this rope horizontally around the vertical tensioning ropes you achieve the level of tuning you desire.
(2) Start threading – always thread the next two verticals following the ones that already been tuned.
Remember This Simple Rule
i) 2 goes over 1.
ii) A close up
iii) Pull until the verticals lock into position.
Follow this sequence exactly and you shouldn’t have problem.
Pull hard – wind the rope around a strong stick and pull hard. Steady the drum with your feet as you pull.
Always count the ropes to be tuned at the top of the drum as you will get confused if you count at the bottom. When you reach the second and third level of tuning you will see how important this is.
Always push the tuning rope down to the base of verticals before you pull through, otherwise the tuning pattern will jump up the drum causing an uneven and unsatisfactory pitch.
Tap the edge of the drum with a rubber or wooden mallet after each tuning sequence, being careful not to hit the tensioned skin.
(3) In time you will take your tuning rope around the drums circumference 3 times (which can take up to 5 years) but never over tighten it just for looks as you could break the skin. Just tune your drum as you need to.
(4) When you finally complete tuning your drum as far as you can go, undo the tuning rope and pull all the slack out of the vertical tensioning rope, tie it off and start tuning again. it’s simple and easy. Once you’ve completed this process you will feel closer to your drum. It’s highly recommended doing this before you reach this stage. It will enable you to fully understand the workings of the djembe and ultimately you feel more confident playing and performing with it as you know exactly what’s going on.
The Djembe Drum is a fun instrument to play. It bring different people together sharing and enjoying.
The African Djembe Drum, pronounced jembe, comes from the Mali Empire of West Africa. The Djembe Drum was originally used for ceremonial purposes. With Ksink Ksinks, tin shield shaped rattles, attached to the drum, the Djembe was used to motivate warriors heading into battle. Now the drum is often used to unite communities and for entertainment. The Djembe is capable of producing thunderous low tones as well as crackling crisp high tones.
How to choose a Djembe drum
Djembe drums are traditionally carved from a single piece of solid African hardwood. African mahogany, iroko, and lenge wood are all excellent materials to use in this regard; Siam oak is a common substitute for drums made outside Africa. The hardness of the wood is important; it allows the shell of the djembe drum to be quite thin, which in turn improves the resonance and sound quality of the drum. Djembe drums made from softer woods are generally inferior.
Modern djembe drums can be made of synthetic materials such as Acousticon, which replicate the strength and timbre of a traditional hardwood djembe drum surprisingly well. The drumskin on a djembe is commonly made of goatskin, though other animal skins are also used; African goatskin is said to provide a distinctive sound. Nowadays, djembe drumheads can also be made from synthetic materials, and these are excellent substitutes.