What Do You Call A Person Who Makes Music Beats An Introduction to the Djembe

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An Introduction to the Djembe

One group of membranophones is the djembe. Usually made of wood, it is shaped like a large bowl with an animal skin stretched over it. One of West Africa’s most popular drums, the shell-shaped body produces deep bass when struck correctly.

The history of the drum can be traced back to the 12th century Mali Empire and the Mandinka or Susu (also known as Numu) tribes. When the Mandinka blacksmiths crossed Africa, the Sanbai, also known as Djembe or Susu, went with them and it became widespread. The people of these tribes believe that the instrument has three spirits, one of the person who makes the djembe, one of the tree from which the wood is taken, and the other of the animal that is used to make the skin of the drum. Today, people prefer to cover the drums with goat skins, and they are carved in wood and decorated with braided ropes, giving each a unique look and feel.

Interestingly, the word djembe is French, not African. The French colonized parts of Africa and studied the musical styles and instruments of the people. Since their language does not have a hard ‘j’, they chose to use ‘dj’, which was the most widely accepted spelling. Many drum notations are recognized, such as djembe, jimbe, and yembe. In the 1950s and 1960s, Djembe became popular in and around Paris due to its extensive use by Les Ballet Africains. Since then, the drum has gained popularity around the world, especially among drummers who appreciate its unique sound.

In Africa, the diansa, or drum rhythm, is traditionally used for celebrations such as weddings and baptisms, as well as for full moons and changing seasons. Some believe that African peoples used drum sounds to send messages over long distances, using different sounds to convey different meanings, such as a musical code language.

African people use other musical instruments to accompany the Djembe, usually bells and middle drums. The Wolof tribe of Senegal uses the djembe as part of an elaborate dance performed by their women. While this instrument is being played, women dance ‘Sabar’, a provocative dance designed to attract and seduce men.

There are three basic ways to create a sound using a djembe. The first is to strike the middle of the djembe with your open palm to create a “bass” note. A second sound is produced when the edge or rim of the drum is struck flat with the fingers, called a “tune,” and thirdly, a similar action on the edge of the drum, but releasing the fingers, is called a “slap.”

Djembes are now made by professional drum makers all over the world and are sought after by students, tourists, professional musicians and hobbyists alike. Musically, it’s hard to resist moving into the driving rhythm of a well-played djembe, and even newbies to drumming enjoy the initial energy of interacting with the djembe.

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