drum are thought to have originated in Guinea though some say it is
from the Mandinka Susso. They are popular in Gambia and the rest of
West Africa and accompany many musical ensembles and styles that require a heavy
percussion rhythm played by a master.
Djembe drums are the basic and
most familiar instruments among all the ethnic groups and are featured
at most events whether ceremonial, ritual or social, and serve as a
device for announcing, warning or calling together. They are shaped like a goblet
and are carved from a single, hollowed hardwood tree and usually
covered in goat skin or other raw hide. They are decoratively carved
and varnished and tensioned by leather or string along the sides. It
is played with the hands.
Each group has its own type of drums: the Mandinka
use three conical drums together, varying in length, and played by 3
musicians. The Serer have a large "kings" drum made of a hollow log
covered with skins at both ends, and a slit cut in the lengthwise
side. It is played horizontally with a stick.
The Tama is a small talking drum and is a small drum with strings
connecting the drumheads which can change the pitch as they are
squeezed by the arm of the player. It is held under the arm and played
with the hands and a stick.
The djembe drum has three meanings: In addition to being a type of drum, it also
means the ensemble of drums playing together, as well as the dance
itself. There may be 10-12 drums in a sabarr ensemble and each one has
a different sound and is played in a different rhythm. Sabarr usually
play in an ensemble of at least four and sometimes even of dozens.
This is because each of the several kinds of sabarr covers a different
and complementary range. The nder is the lead sabarr and has a longer
body and narrower head than the others, producing a higher and more
piercing tone. The principal accompaniment sabarr is the mbëìmbëì,
which produces the widest range of the sabarr. Providing the bass of
the ensemble are the lamb and the goroì talmbat, which have no sound
hole, making them function acoustically like non-directional
Several factors have contributed to the Djembe's
popularity. It has a much wider dynamic range than any single
Djembe, meaning that a lone Djembe can produce the range of
tones that only a full ensemble of Djembe's can produce. It also
has a rich, bright, and resonant tone.