Traditional African music has its own special flavor and sound. This is a result of their unique instruments such as the African Djembe Drum.
What is the African Djembe?
The instrument is pronounced Djembe or jembe. This instrument had appeared originally in West Africa. The tool falls under the category of percussion instruments. The drum has a unique design due to its hollow wooden figure. It has the shape of a goblet. There is a layer of animal skin. The skin covers the drum’s top.
The sound of this drum is used to spice things up in celebrations, religious rituals and baptisms. Its beats induce dancing. Usually, this drum won’t play alone. There is a selection of other drums accompanying the Djembe in creating the cool beats.
Usually, a djembe is about 25 inches high but you can find them in all sizes.
As they are hollow in the middle, they are not extremely heavy either. An average full-size djembe will have weight of 11 kilograms.
Historic overview of the African Djembe
There is much historic evidence showing that Djembe’s history dates back to approx. 1300 AD. People believe that the instrument appeared first in Mali. Throughout the years, Djembe spread like wildfire in the entire area of West Africa. Now, you can easily find it in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Gambia and any other country in the region.
There is some proof pointing that Mandé blacksmiths in Mali were the first people to make the African Djembe. They were making them for interested drummers. They were qualified for cutting the trees and transforming their wood into beautiful djembe drums. Playing djembe is a kind of family legacy. A dejembe musician would pass it from one generation to another. In fact, a huge portion of Djembe’s history was passed on orally through various generations.
In West African traditional beliefs, each Djembe contains three spirits. These spirits come from the tree, the animal and the creators of the drum. The tree is the source or the hardwood. The animal is the source of the skin on the drum’s head. The skin is in fact a major contributor to the beats coming from the drum. The third spirit comes from the people who worked in cutting the trees and creating the djembe drum.
Role of the African Djembe
For centuries, djembe has been an integral part in history and events of West Africa. This drum is more than a source of beats. It is truly entertaining but this is not the whole story. Djembe has always been there in various events. It is a part of the culture and the community in this area. Djembe is associated with songs and songs are an efficient way of telling a story in this region.
The beauty of djembe rhythms increased the level of attention to the tool. Since the late 1960s, the instrument has gained wider attention around the world.
Traditional vs. modern African djembe
For centuries, the traditional djembe has been the standard type of djembe. A couple of decades ago, the tool found its way to the international scene. Such thing has given the djembe a new and a more contemporary look. Each type of drums has its loyal fan base and enthusiasts.
There are major differences in design in both items. Basically, a traditional djembe drum is made of hardwood that comes from a tree. A modern djembe can be made of fiberglass or traditional wood. Composite wood is also a popular component in the making of modern djembe. Such alternatives provide lighter weight compared to hardwood.
The craft of a traditional djembe’s shell reflects beautiful handmade cravings. The shell of modern djembes are made by machines and lack the touch of human creator. Animal skin is used to cover the head of a traditional drum. Synthetic skin is used in contemporary djembes. Such skin usually comes from plastic. Animal skin requires more tuning than synthetic. However, it provides more natural tone to the drum.
Tuning the skin of a traditional djembe requires using a rope and/or metal rings. This could achieve tightening of the skin. In modern djembes, lugs are used to achieve the same purpose.
Advantages of listening to African Djembe
The African Djembe has proven ability to stimulate your sense. It is also capable of relaxing the listeners. So, the instrument can fit your needs no matter what your mood was. In fact, Djembe music works for various events. It is played in religious occasions in West Africa. It is also essential in weddings music there. You can hear it in some funerals too. So, listening to its vibrant beats will definitely put you in a good mood.
Listening to African Djembe can have some health benefits. It can actually increase your blood flow. Such thing would get your heart pumping. You would feel more energetic. This way you can feel more in need for dancing. When you dance, you will definitely increase the rate of your metabolism.
Benefits of playing African djembe
There are various perks that come with listening to djembe rhythms.
If you are playing the instrument, you will find a great way to express your feeling. You can use its beats to describe your emotions. The instrument will help you reflect your worries, happiness or sadness. When you express yourself through the djembe, you may boost your confidence and self-esteem.
This tool can definitely help you improve your social life. It can help you know more people who share the same passion about music. The instrument will give a chance to speak a unique and a different language that only fellow drummers can get. You can play together and make excellent experiences with such social circle.
Playing the African djembe is an ideal activity for hand muscles. You will increase the strength of your hands when you play it more frequently. Your hand might not be flexible in playing in the beginning. However, with training you will see solid improvements.