Discovering the ocean of music makes you realize the number of instruments that actually exist in today’s world and how each one of them has a unique rhythm. One such instrument is the one initially discovered by the Mandinka people of West Africa, known as the djembe drum. The main purpose of the Djembe drum was to provide a means of communication between tribes. The sounds generated by this drum comprise of bass, tone, and a slap combining which, you can create numerous variations of music.
A master djembe drum player is known as the “Djembefola.” To become one, not only do you need to practice this instrument, but you should also be thorough with the steps to play it.
Steps to play a Djembe drum
With three sounds coming from the Djembe drum, mixing it with different pitches and combinations can help you to explore the music this one instrument can produce alone. By hitting the drums in different places with varying postures of hand, you can get several pleasant music variations.
The positioning of the drum
To play any instrument correctly, and with comfort, you need to be sure about the posture you maintain while holding it. For the djembe drum, ensure sitting up in a chair and holding the drum between your legs. Your hand positions should be parallel to the ground while your thumbs need to be pointing upwards.
The different sounds you can make from a djembe drum
A total of three sounds can be produced from a Djembe drum — bass, tone, and slap. Learning to release these sounds can help you become a good Djembe player, and the ways in which you can do so are mentioned below.
● Emitting a bass sound
The basics of playing djembe drums are trying to make the bass sound, for which, a considerable amount of practice is required. Here, you need to hit the drum in the middle so as to produce a low emitting sound. Variation in this phase is also possible by just letting your hand bounce off the drum, and letting this instrument make a resonating sound effect.
● Emitting a tone sound
While the process of releasing a tone and slap sound is similar, their pitch intensity is determined by the position of your hand hitting the drum. For the tone sound, place your hands on the instrument such that your knuckles are placed on the edge. After you position your hand on the instrument correctly, strike the drum with your fingers being flat, all at the same time.
● Emitting a slapping sound
A slapping sound and a tone can be distinguished by observing the bright sound produced by the slap, which is different from the damp sound produced from the tone. To emit this correctly, make a curve of your hand and try to minimize the contact time of your hand on the drum. Instead of forcing your hands on the drum, let it bounce off the edge of your palm.
These steps, if practiced regularly, would help you learn the Djembe drum in no time and make you sound like a real Djembefola. While the high court players only used the Djembe drum in ancient history for story-telling, now this instrument is used to make quality music because of its versatility.
Design of the djembe drum
The Mandinka people carved this instrument from a single piece of a tree trunk to give it a typical hollow structure. Not only does this add cultural importance to this instrument, but it also plays an instrumental role in the versatile sound it emits. The upper part of the drum is put in a bowl shape for the resonating effect, whereas the long and narrow ending of the instrument helps us produce different pitches of sound.
In the earlier days, the covering of the instrument’s face was made up of goat’s skin due to its thickness that gives the instrument a pitch sound effect. The shaved goatskin is placed on the top of the drum, which is then covered by a steel hoop at the edges to keep it intact. In order to make its tension adjustable, a coiled rope is placed above the hoop, which can be toughened or loosened as per the player’s requirement.