Djembe Drums are one of the most identifiable and popular pieces of African Percussion.
According to the Bamana people in Mali, the name of the djembe comes from the saying "Anke djé, anke bé" which translates to "everyone gather together in peace".
Djembes can produce a wide variety of sounds, making it one of the most versatile drums. The drum is very loud, allowing it to be heard clearly as a solo instrument over a large percussion ensemble. The Malinké people say that a skilled drummer is one who "can make the djembe talk", meaning that the player can tell an emotional story.
One of the greatest creation myths for the Djembes surrounds a legend that long ago, men did not know the drum; the chimpanzees owned it. At that time, before guns, there was a trapper named So Dyeu. He was the leader of all the trappers. The chimpanzees often came near his camp. One day, he went hunting and noticed the chimpanzees eating fruit in the trees. They were entertaining themselves with a drum. The hunter said, "This thing they are beating is beautiful. I will set a trap."
He dug a hole and laid a trap. The next day, he heard the chimpanzees crying. The baby chimpanzees cried, the young chimpanzees cried, and the old chimpanzees cried. The trap had caught the chimpanzee drummer.
The hunter called his dog and went into the forest. The chimpanzees fled as he approached, leaving behind them the drummer, caught in the trap with his drum. The hunter took the drum and brought it to the village. That is why the chimpanzees don't have drums anymore and why they beat their chests with their fists.
Fast forward to the 1950s, and the Djembe was seen outside of Africa for the first time since it’s creation, touring Europe and beyond with Les Ballets Africains, a movement founded to promote African music and culture. The movement grew in world popularity to the present day following the de-colonisation of Africa and is currently the National Ensemble of Guinea.
Fodeba Keita - The brains behind Les Ballets Africains and the man responsible for introducing the Djembe to Western audiences.
Modern musicians often incorporate the Djembe with artists including Paul Simon and Les Cirques du Soleil using the instrument in their works. It makes a great alternative percussion instrument for folk or guitar ensembles and even piano as seen in this video -
Today the Djembe is one of the most popular percussion instruments, and they’re customized incredibly with different carvings, paints and sizes to suit every player. Why not have a look at our great range of Djembes and other African percussion here.