Djembe Review: Authentic African Djembes

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Authentic African Djembes

The djembe drum originated in West Africa in an area that now stretches between Western Guinea and Eastern Mali. Over time the tradition of the djembe has spread, and is now prevalent in Guinea, Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and Ghana.

Of these djembe hot spots, the highest quality instruments come from Mali, Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Senegal, and each location has developed distinctive takes on the djembe drum which greatly effect the end sound of the instrument. Though there are many commercially produced djembes on the market, nothing can top the sound quality of a truly authentic djembe that has been carved from a single piece of hardwood by master drum builders in West Africa.


These djembes can cost anywhere from $200 - $600, but here at Djembe Review we recommend saving up the extra cash to buy an upper-tier drum, as it is well worth the relatively minor price bump to own a superior quality djembe drum.

Explore Authentic African Djembes from Djembe Direct Here

(A full sized djembe is normally around 13" x 24"). Though the drum head, rope, and rings will change over time, you are really paying for the quality of the shell -- which will last you a lifetime!
           

~Here are some characteristics of the different djembe styles:

                    Mali:  These djembes are very round in appearance, with a large curved bowl and stem
(as seen in the DrumSkull Djembe above). The throat of Mali djembes are typically a bit on the larger side, which aids in creating a full sound with lots of volume. Along with the djembes of Guinea, Mali is famous for creating some of the most professional instruments available today. These drums have a characteristically strong bass and tone, with a crisp slap and excellent projection. Mali djembes are commonly made from the following wood types -- Lenke (Lingué), Haré (Guéni), Dugara, and Djalla (Akajou, Bois Rouge).
                    Guinea:
  The evolution of the djembe in Guinea has yielded a drum with a very 'tight' sound spectrum, which is favored by many players. In appearance these drums are often much straighter than the Mali style, more angular, and feature a squared bowl and relatively small throat opening. These adaptations create an extremely strong slap while still allowing for the full spectrum of bass and tone as well. These drums have also developed a reputation for elaborate shell decorations, are predominately made of the wood - Haré (Khadi), Lenke (Lingué), Djalla (Akajou, Bois Rouge), and Beng (Douki), and have a bottom ledge carved to secure the lower ring and prevent slippage.
                    Ivory Coast:  These djembe drums appear straighter than those of Mali and Guinea, while maintaining excellent sound quality. Carved from seasoned Iroko wood, Ivory Coast shells are typically on the thicker side, yet are still lighter than the average drum -- making them ideal for playing while standing or travel. These djembes are usually a little less expensive than drums from other areas, but are considered to be high quality instruments. Sound wise, they have a full tonal range with clear distinctions between bass, tone, and slap. They also have a lower ledge carved, and are often decorated with a few cascading rings at the bottom of the stem.
                    Senegal:  The djembes of Senegal are very unique in design, differing greatly from all of the other styles. They feature an elongated hourglass bowl shape, and typically a widely flared stem. The treatment of the stem itself has formed into two sub-styles, one that flares out dramatically at the base, and the other that curves in a subtler inward fashion. Overall, this interesting shape yields a dry and crisp sound quality with a thunderous bass, large tone, and high slap. These drums are almost exclusively carved from the Dimba tree, which is a very dense African hardwood.
              
 ~If you are looking for an authentic African instrument, we recommend visiting Djembe Direct for high quality djembe drums available online. Also, Drumskull Drums is another great source for traditional top-tier African djembes if you're willing to pay a bit extra for superior craftsmanship. (Pictures of the various African djembe styles can be viewed in our Image Gallery, and you can see traditional djembe drums in action on our Videos page.)



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