Monthly Archives: June 2012

African Drums: the Djembe

“Where I come from we say that rhythm is the soul of life, because the whole universe revolves around rhythm, and when we get out of rhythm, that’s when we get into trouble.”— Babatunde Olatunji

I’ve always been attracted to and influenced by traditional African art, with it’s bold patterns and stylized imagery. That same boldness is also part of traditional African music. And of course the first instrument that comes to mind when considering African music, is the drum.

The goblet-shaped drum, called the djembe, is played with bare hands and produces a wide variety of sounds. It’s traditionally been used in the western part of Africa by men (women djembe players are extremely rare) for centuries.

While some african drums were used as a sophisticated means of long distance communication, the djembe’s primarily use was in ceremonies and celebrations, in short, to get people moving and to stir their souls.

Here’s a clip of the late Babatunde Olatunji, a great Nigerian drummer famous for bringing the traditional style of African percussion to a worldwide audience:

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