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Djembe

The Djembe


The djembe (JEM-be) is a goblet drum tuned by applying tension to the skin with rope and hit with the hand. The djembe originates from West Africa and are traditionally made of wood but fibreglass and other materials are also used in modern manufacture. 

The djembe is a loud drum which means it can be played as a solo instrument and will be heard within a large group of percussion players. The volume of the djembe rises when skin tension is increased and skilled players can generate very loud sounds indeed.

Djembe musicians create three basic sounds;

Bass - The "Bass" is produced by striking the drum head with the palm and flat fingers near the centre of the skin. 
Tone - The "Tone" is produced by striking the djembe closer to the edge using most of the area of the fingers and the palm.
Slap - The "Slap" is also produced by  striking the drum closer to the edge, but restricts the amount of the palm and fingertips used.

Additional djembe sounds are possible of course and a virtuoso can achieve 20-30 distinct sounds and use these to create many rhythmic patterns.

The pitch of the "tones" and "slaps" predominantly depends on the tension of the djembe skin; these rise in pitch as more tension is applied to the skin. And all the basic sounds are played "open", meaning that the hands rebound immediately after a strike to minimise contact time.