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Learning to play the Djembe. 

A djembe (pronounced "JEM-bae") is an African hand drum. Djembes are rope-turned and have goblet-shaped bodies with rawhide drumheads. The African djembe is a staple in world percussion, and many Western and non-Western countries have their own version of the djembe. Djembes range in size, but an average-sized djembe weighs approximately 15 to 20 pounds. Djembe players are called “djembefola.”


There are three ways to strike the head in djembe drumming: slap, bass, and tone.

  1. Slap: Slap sounds make the highest-pitched sounds on the djembe. Hit the edge of the drum with a slight curvature in your fingers.
  2. Bass: Bass sounds are the lowest pitches on the djembe. Hit the centre of the drum with a heavy, flat palm.
  3. Tone: Tone sounds are medium-pitched. Hit the edge of the drum slightly more toward the centre than for a slap. Keep fingers flat, and move the whole arm, rather than just the wrist.

 Pupils will understand the fundamentals of each stroke. The most common playing position is to sit with the drum between the legs. Grab a chair or stool, and sit on the front edge. Place the djembe in between the legs to keep it secure. Do not lean into the djembe—instead, recline back slightly. 

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