Presentation of the


Here is some important information to know about the instruments you will discover during the European Crafts Days exhibition.

The djembe

A little history…

Original to West Africa, the djembe is said to have appeared in the 13th century within the Mandingo Empire. Originally, it was used as ameans of communication. It announced important life events such as births, weddings, mourning, harvest festivals and initiation ceremonies. Accompanied by other instruments, it punctuated traditional songs and dances during these celebrations.

In the 1950s, the djembe began to be exported to Europe thanks to the African ballets created under the impetus of Guinean poet and choreographer Fodéba Keïta.

In the 1980s, great players called djembefola (Mamady Keïta, Amadou Kiénou or even Famoudou Konaté) participate in the worldwide diffusion of this practice by creating learning centers in Europe, the United States and Japan.

The register of the djembe expands from the 2000s to accompany modern music as for the song I’m Yours by Jason Mraz.

Evolution of the instrument

At its beginnings, the djembe was mounted with small pieces of wood stuck directly into the drum. The skin was attached in 5 or 6 places and stretched several times while pushing the wedges in. This assembly was very fragile and the tension, relatively weak, let air pass in the resonance box. Today, this assembly has almost disappeared.

About 1977, a French musician, inspired by the congas assembly, developed a new system allowing not to touch the sounding board: the skin is now fixed with three iron straps and strings. As the tension is much greater, the sound has become more acute.

In the 1990s, we encounter another evolution with the industrial drums, made of synthetic material.


The word djembe means “drum” in Bambara, the main language of the Malian communities.


This instrument is primarily played with the hands or fingers. Striking it with the full palm in the center of the skin produces a rather low sound. Conversely, attacking theskin with the fingers on the rim will produce a higher-pitched snapping sound. There are different striking techniques providing many sounds.

Listen to the sound of the djembe


Holding the instrument

The djembe is played standing with a strap or seated.


Factor of the instrument

The wood

The djembe is made of a piece of solid wood. The main species are teak, lingué, guéni, diala or dugura.

The skin

The djembe was originally rcovered with a skin from bush animals such as gazelles or antelopes. The goat skin is now commonly used. In recent years, some djembes are made with synthetic skins.

The strings

Generally, these are pre-stretched hemp with a diameter of 2 to 3 mm. Used by sailors, this rope is very strong and has very little slack. This allows for constant skin tension.

I'm Yours by Jason Mraz
I'm Yours by Jason Mraz
Jason Mraz e Noel "Toca" Rivera - I'm Yours