This type of 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
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.