The djembe (pronounced ‘jem-beh’) is the goblet-shaped hand drum from West Africa. Its exact origins are largely unknown, but it is widely acknowledged that the drum originated with the Mandinka (Maninke) people of western Africa in around 1300 AD.
At the time, the Mandinka people, under command of the great King Sundiata, ruled over much of west Africa. The king was widely celebrated as a hero, having conquered an empire stretching over modern day Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, and Senegal.
Mandinka society was divided into castes of professions. The blacksmith caste (‘Numu’) were the first to be associated with the djembe, and played it only during the smelting of iron ore. In west African society, certain instruments such as the balafon, the kora and the ngoni are subject to hereditary restrictions, meaning that they may only be played by members of the griot (historian/storyteller) caste. The djembe is not a griot instrument and there are no restrictions on who may become a djembefola.
In daily life, various events are accompanied by unique songs and dances, usually sung by the griot, accompanied by drummers, singers and dancers. Songs tell of great leaders, like King