The djembe features a goblet-shaped shell, with a cylindrical sound chamber at the base of a bowl. It’s often constructed with a wooden, synthetic or composite shell. Traditional wood djembe construction is labor intensive, and requires that the drum be carved by hand from a single piece of wood. The djembe features a rope-tuned rawhide head that’s traditionally untreated goatskin, though synthetic heads have become more popular as they are more able to accurately reproduce authentic tones.
The djembe produces a wide variety of sounds, making it one of the most versatile drums. It’s also very loud, and can be heard clearly as a solo instrument over a large percussion ensemble. According to the Bamana people in Mali, who are credited with the drum’s development, the name “djembe” comes from the saying "Anke djé, anke bé," which translates to "everyone gather together in peace.”
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