The Djembe drum is arguably one of the most versatile and popular percussion instruments around the world. One reason why many make use of this drum is that it possesses the ability to create several types of pitches, which varies from bass (low), tone (medium), to slap (high). Amazingly, by merely striking different parts of the Djembe skin with your hands, all these sounds can be produced.
What’s the origin of the Djembe?
History says the Djembe drums date back to the 12th century, it was invented by the Mandinke tribe in Mali, West Africa. It is then not surprising that the drum has been played by many West African countries for several generations, and it has become an integral part of their culture. It has also been played across other parts of Africa and has become a part of their ceremonial life.
The design of the Djembe is exceptionally unique, and this improves the sort of sound the drum produces. The drum features a goblet-shaped body that is often carved and hollowed out of a single piece of tree trunks. The Mandinke people are known for using Lenge trees for designing their drums. This is because of the spiritual importance of the drum and the resounding acoustic features.
Each part of the drum plays a significant part in the tone produced. Djembe large bowl-shaped chamber helps with the creation of low resonance for the bass strokes. The narrow, elongated lower section of the drum is known for projecting the volume of all tones. Traditionally, goat skins are used for the design of the drum’s head. As such, the drum delivers a high-pitched piercing tone and slap sounds due to the goatskin thinness.
The sound of the Djembe
The Djembe is known for delivering three main sounds, bass, tone, and slap. You can play the bass sound by striking the drum in the middle of the skin with a heavy hand. Tone can also be played by striking the drum on the edge of the skin with your hands; you can use your wrist in propelling the hand towards the drum. You can also play slap, which is the hardest stroke by hitting the drum near the edge.
There are different types of slaps, so depending on the type you are playing, where you will hit may be slightly different. While many feel trial and error are the best way to play slap, professional Djembe players say otherwise.
The Cultural Context of Djembe
Both the spiritual and the ritualistic life of West African inhabitants have incorporated the djembe drum for several years. In the early days, the Griots (high-class court musicians) are billed with the task of playing the drum, they are known for using the drum in passing messages across, or for storytelling. They use the Djembe for delivering essential historical, religious, and cultural information for future generations.
The Griots are known for their skill as excellent musicians, and they display their skill excellently when playing the Djembe, passing their vast knowledge from one generation to the other.
The Djembe drum is linked with both dancing and singing. Djembe players or Djembefola are required to learn the accompanying songs and dance moves of the rhythms they perform. This is because all dance comes with symbolic meanings. They are performed at several events, which ranges from festivals calling for rain, funerals, harvests, weddings, births, etc.
Read: Best Hand Drums for Beginner
How Djembe Improves the Spirit of Togetherness
There is beauty when humans play and dance together when drums are played. The player skillfully conveys messages to the dancers, these messages are then converted into dancing steps. All around the world, several West African dance classes are held at different locations. One of such classes is offered by Ailey Extension in their New York Studio.
At one of their classes, they have a Monthly Djembe and West African drumming workshop where many students express themselves dancing to the unique sound of the Djembe either when performing or during classes.
One good thing about playing drums and dancing to the unique sound of Djembe is that you really don’t need to have a wealth of experience, or any at all. In each person’s heart are rhythm and music, say an expert player. The heart has been beating even before birth, that beat is all that is needed when playing.
One of the unique features of the Djembe drum is its ability to lift both the player and listener’s spirit. All that is needed is to find a trainer that will help you find your rhythm, and improve your ability to communicate with others. With a bit of positivity, playing Djembe becomes way easier.
Read: Best Djembe For Beginners
One famous saying in Africa states that “Drumming helps you forget the bad in life, it transforms your inner person.” The drum is indeed a powerful magic for the soul, and Djembe is just one of the best options you can play with.
When you take Djembe drum classes, you start to shape your experience; you get to interact with many other players, both legends and experts who have done great with the drum, and are still willing to improve.
Djembe drum goes hand in hand with dancing; it is best felt when you dance to the unique sounds delivered.
Professional dancers see the greatest link that makes their art easier; it boils down to the drum. The drum has a call nature, and they require a response from the dancer. The drummer asks questions, and the dancers provide an answer by dancing.
Dancing and drumming are language, there are different language options, and they are not the same. As such, there are specific movements that are attached to each dancing style. These specific movements are expected to be learned from experts if one will come to understand them well.
Trust me, the best way to learn is through experts that offer both drumming and dancing services. It is easier when you learn from professionals.
Dancing to the joyous sounds of the Djembe comes with a joyous spirit that lifts the soul of the player, the listener, and the dancer.
One excellent way to get the best out of the Djembe unique sound either the tone, slap, or bass, is to unite it with the best dancers who will connect to the messages delivered, and lift spirits. Undoubtedly, the Djembe drum improves the spirit of togetherness.