Djembe : How to choose your instrument?

Originally from West Africa, the djembe is a very popular percussion instrument that can be found in traditional African music as well as in contemporary pop-rock music.

Here is, to help you make your choice, a small glimpse of the best djembe models of the moment.

Mahogany wood Djembe

Reference brand in the field of percussion, Meinl signs here a high quality product, with this practical and compact traditional African djembe. You won’t have any trouble carrying it for your percussion sessions outdoors or at friends’ houses, thanks to its hard case which protects it in an ideal way from possible blows and/or scratches.

On the aesthetic side, you will not be disappointed by the quality of the materials used for the design of this traditional djembe. Carved from a single piece of mahogany wood, it is provided with a carefully selected goat skin stretched by strong HTTP nylon strings.

Its hand carved details and ornaments complete this elegant design in the best possible way. As for its sound, it is unanimously acclaimed by its users. It is not for nothing that this model of African djembe is one of the best sellers on Amazon. An item not to be missed!

Child Djembe 40 x 20 cm with learning booklet

Specially made for children from 3 years old, this real 40 cm African djembe is the ideal instrument for young beginners who want to get into the world of percussion.

This magnificent percussion object is designed in West Africa according to a traditional manufacturing process identical to that of professional djembes; it is made from authentic asltonia boonei wood, the traditional wood of Yorubas percussion instruments, from goat skins carefully chosen and stretched with 16 attachment points, in order to promote a clear, pure and powerful sound.

The great advantage of this model of djembe for children is that it comes with a protective cover made of colorful African fabric, as well as a great DVD – available in several languages – to promote musical awakening and offer a real method of learning percussion for the youngest. A real treat for young music and rhythm enthusiasts.

30 cm Djembe with traditional painting

If your budget is limited and/or you wish above all to make a punctual use of it, this traditional mini-djembe, 30 cm high, can do the trick.

Don’t be mistaken by its small size or its economical price: made, painted, and decorated by hand, it offers a very interesting quality-price ratio, with high quality solid wood and natural skin.

Each instrument is adorned with colorful bead patterns, which may vary from model to model. Well designed, this compact and handy djembe will please the youngest and the oldest.

Small traditional djembe of 30 cm

Made from fair trade products, this economical and handy traditional djembe is perfect for introducing young children to the world of percussion.

Made from mahagoni wood and goat skins using a handcrafted process, it offers a bass sound that is just right for a tam-tam in this price category – not as good as the sound produced by first-rate djembes, but still quite acceptable.

Its small size makes it easy to handle, especially for younger children. It is a correct product, offered at a very interesting price.

What is a djembe?

The djembe is a percussion instrument very widely used in African folklore, particularly from the former Empire of Mali, where it originated. It is only in the 2000s that the djembe began to integrate more modern music groups; it is now not uncommon to see it accompany a guitar or a bass during a pop-rock concert.

Aesthetically speaking, the djembe takes the form of a wooden chalice with a goat or antelope skin on one end, stretched by a system of natural or synthetic strings (nowadays often replaced by metal rings). It is played with bare hands. Its flared shape gives it a wide sound spectrum, hence its great popularity worldwide. Generally speaking, the djembe is part of a polyrhythmic ensemble composed of other musical instruments, or even other accompanying djembes – in other words, it is very rare to hear it alone.

 How to choose your djembe?

Given the great variety of djembes, in terms of size and style, it is necessary to be able to have a few points of reference before making your choice.

  • The height: think of choosing a djembe which offers you a sufficiently comfortable playing height. In other words, if you measure more than 1m80, you will prefer a djembe a little higher, which adapts to your size.
  • The weight: a good traditional djembe is made from a single piece of hardwood, preferably of a dense and regular thickness. Its weight varies between 6 and 12 kg, for the better category djembe.
  • The quality of the materials used: a good quality djembe is imperatively made from a skin of natural origin – usually a goat skin. The sound that will come out of it will depend mainly on the thickness of the skin. For example, a thin skin will tend to produce higher-pitched sounds, and a thicker skin will produce rounder notes. However, avoid thicker skins, which are much more difficult to play, as they will require more striking force.

The greatest djembe players

Among the most famous djembefola, from the great national ballets of Africa, we could mention Mamady Keïta, but also Amadou Kiénou, Famoudou Konaté, or François Dembélé.

Finally, here are some djembe videos: