Djembe Review: Toca Percussion Djembes

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Toca Percussion

Toca is another one of the top manufacturers in the commercial djembe world. They are one leg of Kamen Music Corporation, and were created to focus on Afro-Cuban percussion instruments to serve the blossoming hand drum culture in the US. Their drums offer a distinctive choice in style, design, and sound, and their djembes have been very successful. Toca djembes are accessibly priced, and give players and percussionists an alternative choice when looking for hand percussion instruments.

Essentially they carry two types of djembe drums -- African style djembes (wood with rope tuning), and PVC djembes with goatskin heads. The latter models won 'Best of Show' at NAMM 2007. Additionally, these hybrid djembes are split into the rope tuned and mechanically tuned models. These drums are a modern take on the djembe, and while Remo djembes are completely synthetic,
Toca's use of goatskin heads on PVC shells give these djembe drums much more of a traditional sound. Additionally, these instruments are surprisingly lightweight, durable, and resonant.
(Toca djembes are manufactured in Indonesia.)

                                        Explore Toca Djembes at X8 Drums Here

~Here is a breakdown of Toca's Djembe Lines:

                   Synergy Freestyle Djembes:  The Synergy Freestyle models are arguably Toca's most popular hand drum. These djembes are made through a patented process that shapes PVC piping into the shell, and they are headed traditionally with goatskin (though these skins are on the thinner size, as they are not from African animals.) The end product is an affordable hybrid djembe that is portable, durable, and capable of creating great sounds with great projection. These djembes are extremely popular for recreational use, educational purposes, and drum circles.
                  They come in various sizes and styles which are created by applying patterned fabric to the shells. There are 7", 9", 10", and 12" models, along with the popular 14" 'Cannon' size. All drums have a rubber ring at the bottom to protect the shell, and are capable of making a bass, tone, and slap. The 12" and 14" models sound most traditional, whereas the smaller djembes produce more of a doumbek sound. The price range for these drums is $50 - $175 depending on the size,  style, and dealer, and are an excellent choice if you are looking for something affordable that is easy to transport and easy to play.
                   Synergy Mechanically Tuned Djembes:  These models carry over all of the same characteristics as the Freestyle djembes, but tout one additional feature: mechanical tuning. As pictured above, this system takes the hassle out of tuning your drum, and also makes head replacement quick and cost effective. This line comes in 9", 10", 12", and 14" models, along with several styles. The tuning lugs themselves are covered with a rubber sleeve to prevent the hardware from pushing into your legs during play, and the 14" models come with a free bag. Also, the shells of these drums were seamlessly created with a newly designed bowl shape for optimal bass tones. Across all of Toca 's PVC djembes, the bass tones are huge and resonant -- more so than on the average traditional drum. These models are still relatively cheap, but cost a little bit more than the roped tuned djembes.
                  Synergy Rope Tuned Wood Djembes:  These djembes are made with wood that is legally harvested from plantations in Indonesia. There, the  drums are lathed and handcrafted by local musicians. The hand carved Mahogany hardwood makes an environmentally conscious drum that is still capable of producing great sounds. Toca offers 4 styles that are hand painted and kiln dried, with 20 coats of teak oil used to protect and preserve the wood. The manufacturing process allows for uniform shell thickness, and low stretch rope and authentic goat skin heads finish off the construction. This line is offered in a 7", 8", 10", and 12" model that range in price from $50 - $175. As far as sound is concerned, these drums are able to approach the traditional sound of an authentic African djembe, and are capable of producing a clear bass, tone, and slap. If price is an issue but you are looking for an authentic style djembe, then this line is a great option -- but -- if an authentic sound is truly what you desire, we recommend saving up for a drum from West Africa.
                  Synergy Pro African Djembes:  The Pro African series is at the top of Toca's offering. These drums are the most authentic across their various lines, and have many superior features to their other models. In addition to all of the features listed above for the Rope Tuned Wood Djembes, the Pro African Djembes also offer: Increased rope runners and three rings that allow for more stable tuning while eliminating skin slippage, traditional African carvings on inside of shell, and lateral groove/rough surfaced carvings on the interior bowl to reduce overtones. The Pro djembes come in 10", 12", and 13" sizes, and are the priciest djembe drums Toca carries. With djembes, you really do get what you pay for -- and this line offers excellent sound quality and craftsmanship.

To hear what Toca Djembes sound like, check out the following video links:

Michael Wimberly on Toca Synergy Djembes

Jamal Mohamed's Freestyle Djembe Drumming

~If Toca djembes seem like what you're looking for, check out X8 Drums - Musician's Friend - and Music123 for great deals on Toca products.

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