Top 6 Best Djembe in India | Dec 2020
Reviews, Comparison and Buying Guide
What is Djembe?
A djembe or jembe is a rope-tuned skin-covered goblet drum played with bare hands, originally from West Africa. According to the Bambara people in Mali, the name of the djembe comes from the saying “Anke djé, anke bé” which translates to “everyone gather together in peace” and defines the drum’s purpose.
The djembe has a body (or shell) carved of hardwood and a drumhead made of untreated (not limed) rawhide, most commonly made from goatskin. Excluding rings, djembes have an exterior diameter of 30–38 cm (12–15 in) and a height of 58–63 cm (23–25 in). The majority have a diameter in the 13 to 14 inch range. The weight of a djembe ranges from 5 kg to 13 kg (11–29 lb) and depends on size and shell material. A medium-size djembe carved from one of the traditional woods (including skin, rings, and rope) weighs around 9 kg (20 lb).
The djembe can produce a wide variety of sounds, making it a most versatile drum. The drum is very loud, allowing it to be heard clearly as a solo instrument over a large percussion ensemble.
Best Djembe | Buying Guide : Things to consider while buying a Djembe
When preparing to buy a Djembe, it’s important to determine the type of sound you’re looking for before you start shopping. After reading the info in this Djembe Buying Guide, you’ll be able to make a clear and confident decision about which drum is perfect for you.
Anatomy of the Djembe
The djembe is made up of 4 main parts:
- A wooden shell
- Rawhide skin
- Metal rings
One of the biggest characteristics of the djembe is that it’s surprisingly loud.
And can produce surprisingly deep bass tones for its size.
Anyway, let’s see each of these parts with more details, starting with…
The djembe has a body (or shell) carved of hardwood and the bass pitch is determined by the size and shape of the shell.
Djembe shells are carved from a single piece of wood. Hard and dense woods work best because they produce the loudest tone.
Traditionally, djembe shells are made from exotic woods found only in West Africa…
However, since supplies of those woods are extremely limited, in the rest of the world, the most common woods used to make djembes are:
- African and regular mahogany
- African mesquite
- American ash
The interior should ideally be textured with scallops or shallow grooves, in a spiral pattern that influence the sound of the instrument — smooth interiors are usually avoided as they produce too much sustain.
Now, although the most common djembe diameter is 13/14″, there are other, less popular sizes:
- 9″ – which is meant for kids
- 10″ – which is often recommended for short adults
- 12″ – which is the standard size recommended for under 6′ tall adults
Traditionally, djembe skins are made from goat skin. Or other commonly available animals in Africa such as:
As it turns out, the skin of poorly-fed animals from hot climates (such as those in Africa) make the best djembe skins because of their lower fat content.
Ironically, even though the male goats have a lower fat content, the females are preferred because they don’t smell as bad.
The process of preparing the skin begins by heating it over an open flame, causing it to dry out and shrink.
The hair can then either be shaved or removed chemically through liming. However, common wisdom states that liming actually weakens the skin and ruins the tone.
When mounted, the area of skin over the goat’s spine (where it is thicker) is run through the center of the drum head for even tuning. When played, each hand strikes either side of the spine.
One of the biggest factors in determining the sound and playability of a particular djembe is the thickness of the skin.
- will produce a warmer sound
- more overtones in the slaps
- make it easier to play full tones
- harder to play sharp slaps
- are harder on the hands
Thinner skins will produce:
- A sharper sound with fewer overtones in the slaps
- A louder sound overall
Factory-made djembes often use skins made from synthetic materials, such as FiberSkyn, which is essentially plastic that mimics the visuals of rawhide
The djembe head is trapped, or tucked between two rings on top and secured on one additional ring at the bottom.
- the top ring – known as “crown ring”
- the bottom ring – known as “flesh ring”
- the ring on the stem: the bottom ring
Up until the 1980’s, the rings were made out of cowhide. They then got replaces by metal.
Although up until the 1980s the most common mounting system was twisted strips of cowhide as rope…
Modern djembes now exclusively use synthetic rope, generally of kernmantle construction.
Kernmantle means the rope has a reinforced core made of various thinner fibers, protected by an outer sheath as you can see in the picture on the right.
The rope is usually 4–5 mm thick and low-stretch (static) rope is preferred.
As for the facts, most djembe ropes have a polyester core with a 16‑ or 32‑ plait mantle and around 5% stretch.
Very low-stretch (<1%) rope materials, such as Vectran and Spectra, are only rarely used due to their much higher cost.
Types of Djembe Wood:
Lengue Wood: Overall sound, consistency, and durability are good. Increasingly rare, this is the “Cadillac” of djembe woods. They have a melodic quality, superior projection, good overall bass/tone/slap contrast, and long sustain. As with most Guinea shells, the chiseling pattern is on the interior of bowl and the stem is a spiral.
Acajou Wood (Bois Rouge): One of the prized “redwoods” from the Guinea-Mali region, along with Lenge and Djalla. Acajou is often difficult to tell apart from the other redwoods. It is generally lighter (in color) with more orange, and will have light patches. As with most Guinea shells, the chiseling pattern is on the interior of the bowl and the stem is a spiral. Overall sound, consistency, and durability are great.
Djalla Wood: Along with Acajou and Lenge, Djalla is one of the highly sought after “redwoods” from the Guinea/Mali region. It is also very difficult to distinguish from the other “redwoods”, except that Djalla tends toward the dark red and purple, and has fewer light patches. As with most Guinea Shells, the chiseling pattern is on the interior of the bowl and the stem is a spiral. Overall sound, consistency, projection, and durability are great. Djalla has exceptional bass/tone/slap contrast.
Balafon Wood (Hare, Khadi(Susu), Beng (Malinke): Overall sound, consistency, and durability are great. Owing to the tight pores and high density, Balafon wood is the loudest of all the woods. It will sometimes have a “ringy” quality that is best balanced out with a thick skin. As with most Guinea shells, the chiseling pattern is on the inside of the bowl and the stem is a spiral. In Guinea, balafons are made from this same melodic wood.
Iroko Wood: Always noticeable because of the ledge carved for the bottom ring so it won’t slip. (Not ALL have it though) Iroko djembes and dununs are among the most consistent and highest quality in the world. Exceptional overall bass/tone/slap contrast. The more open pores give Iroko a very warm sound, and it is a good weight for carrying. Interior of bowl and stem are thicker, and smoother, than Guinea shells. The thicker shell enables a very comfortable and rounded bearing edge. It is possible to find lightweight ones but you may have to wait 6mos or so for one to get here.
Demba (Dimb, Duki, Dougoura, Teak): Density and tight pores make this a very bright drum. It has a “dry” sound; not a lot of bass response or sustain, but strong tones. Drawbacks include heavy weight, poorer than average bass response, many cracks, and chunky (not smooth) interior. Senegal is facing a tree shortage and carvers are now using trees cut down a decade ago, which were discarded at that time for low quality. Watch out for a greater than average amount of cracks and patches repaired with glue and sawdust. Demba-Duki shells from southern Senegal (Casamance), Gambia, and Guinea are the most consistent shells from this wood.
Tips On Buying A Djembe
SIZE OF A DJEMBE
DIAMETER: The best size for a basic lead drum is about 13″ diameter head and 24.5″ tall. A supporting drum is slightly larger in diameter. Drums larger than 14″ head diameter are hard to keep in tune because there is more skin surface area. Those skins also pop easier because the thinner edges of the skin are on the edge of the drum. However, Famoudou’s 14″ is with our teacher Nancy and she has not had to tune that for a year or two now! So, there are always exceptions. Depends on who made the drum too and where. In fact, for some reason Famoudou’s djembe do not need tuning very often… you give him an untuned djembe and he just plays the music out of it! Amazing master Famoudou.
SHAPE: A common myth is that the bass on a larger drum is boomier. However, this is not always true. Sometimes the bass on a 14″ (or larger) drum is so low that it can’t be heard. Our ears have a specific range. Huge drums may rattle windows, but be hard to hear. In large groups, the bass is the first thing to drop off anyway. Moreover, some smaller djembes can have a lower bass than a huge djembe if the drum has a smaller throat diameter. The shape of the drum, the thickness and tuning of skin and your technique will decide the sound of the bass.
HEIGHT: 22.5″ should be about the absolute minimum height. Anything shorter, and you’ll be hitting your legs and bending over too much. 24″ seems perfect. 24.5 ” seems more perfect. And 25″ is okay. Any taller and the sitting position you will be in may not be comfortable. We sometimes cut off the stem a half inch to fit the customers needs. Rarely but it can be done. Consider that most chairs are a standard height so when testing a new drum, be sure to be sitting at the approximate height you will encounter in playing situations.
Some people carry their own chair, but rarely. Some people carry a drum seat (throne) but rarely. Carrying a round, small cushion in your case on top of your djembe is not a bad idea as you can add an inch to your height and have a comfy seat, always. Also, you may become a standing djembe player where you should still have a seat available, you can spend your playing time movin’ and groovin’ at the same time. In performance, the audience reacts to this way of playing very well,.
CRACKS: Small cracks near the top and bottom of the drum are normal. They occur during the open-air curing process as the wood loses water and acclimates to the environment. Once these small cracks are filled with wood-putty, they rarely open up. But be aware of huge patches, as they may be covering a knot or a structural problem.
ABOUT THE SKIN: Skins from Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, and sometimes Senegal are best. They are fresher and are from leaner animals, which translates to stronger, less brittle skins with less fat and scaring. Some skins from Pakistan, Thailand, or Indonesia (Bali)…most used to be brittle and thin. Some were ringy. There are a fae excellent suppliers in those countries. Mostly for looks, the spine should be centered on the drum. We feel that hair that was removed with a razor blade when the skin was still wet is preferable to that which was removed by chemicals or dry shaved.
THE WEATHER: Natural skins are affected by temperature and weather pressure changes. Expect the pitch of your djembe to go up in warm or dry weather, and possibly back down in cool or moist weather. Don’t fully tune a drum under wet or cold conditions because it could burst the skin when the temperature and humidity change. Interesting factoid: From almost 30 years of experience in the Northeast region of the U.S., I have found extreme heat (as in a closed up car in hot sunlight) will cause more damage to your drum that extreme cold! So park in the shade, crack the car windows or take your drum inside with you in hot weather. If you’re comfortable, so will your drum be.
RE-HEADING: The tighter you keep your drum, the shorter the life span of the skin. Average ‘great sound’ life span is 2 to 5 years but the skin may last as long as 20 years. Professional players change them about once a year or two. We sell replacement skins, rings, rope, pullers, and instructions for the “do-it-yourselfer”, videos, pulling tables and lots of skins.
Top 6 Best Djembe- [Updated and Highly Recommended]
Comparison Chart to make your purchase easy
Circle Djembes from the LP World Collection offer stunning sound and premium durability with eye-catching looks for rhythm makers of all levels. The djembes are made of LP’s exclusive HD material making them both lightweight and robust. Plus, the pretuned, Perfect-Pitch head is impervious to climate conditions. Ideal for educators and enthusiasts, Circle Djembes are the perfect blend of old-world traditions and the latest manufacturing techniques.
Features / Reviews
Exclusive HD Shell Construction with reinforced bearing edge
Stunning sound and premium durability with eye-catching looks
The djembe is the Manufacturing by SG Musical the djembe now functions as a “healing” drum, used in many ceremonies, from weddings to funerals. Presently the djembe is the most popular African drum played in Europe. Based on the traditional djembe tone and form, combined with SG Musical modern advances, these drums have a wide tonal range with crystal clear heights and a rich deep bass sound. Replacement heads can be special ordered. The Acousticon shell is manufactured from recycled hardwood and is unaffected by climatic changes lether head gives an outstanding authentic ethnic drum sound.
Features / Reviews
Good Quality Leather Skin
Wide tonal range with crystal clear heights and a rich deep bass sound
These MEINL Nile Series Rope Tuned Djembes are made from a solid piece of plantation-grown mahogany wood and are hand carved. This also makes the djembe easy to grip between the knees. The hand-selected goat skin head is secured and tuned with the traditional Mali Weave system.
Features / Reviews
Carved from one solid piece of plantation grown Mahogany Wood
Hand carved shells and Pre-stretched nylon tuning ropes
Remo Djembe Drums are the most popular of all of their World Percussion instruments. Key-tuned Remo djembes are as widely used by touring professionals as they are in drum circles. The high slaps and deep bass tones from all Remo Djembes are from the Skyndeep Fiberskyn drumhead and Acousticon shell. This 14-inch model features 8 lugs and an Earth-pattern Fabfurnish covering.
Features / Reviews
Acousticon shell and a Mondo Skyndeep drumhead
Full-range tuning with rich, warm bass and well-defined slap tone
Features / Reviews
Base is beautifully carved
Nice tonal sound quality with correct pitch
Original Leather Carved from single piece Mango wood, Pre Stretch Nylon Rope, Rounded edge for better playing and to reduce leather tear Termite Treated Hand Crafted, Made in India
Features / Reviews
Pre stretch nylon rope, rounded edge for better playing and to reduce leather tear
Carved from single piece Mango wood
Benefits of Djembe
Can you imagine living your life without music? It would be very hard to do so, as music has been hard-wired into our very existence as human beings. While everyone enjoys listening to good music, not many of us are what the world calls ‘musicians’- the ones with the ability to play a Djembe. This could be due to not having the opportunity to learn as kids or simply due to lack of inclination or proper instruction. However, music is something that is never too late to learn. And here are 10 good reasons as to why everyone should learn to play a Djembe.
Researchers studying the benefits of music have reported that playing a Djembe on a regular basis can help bring down stress. Studies show that playing an instrument helps in lowering the heart rate and blood pressure, which in turn lowers the stress hormone cortisol, thus making us feel relaxed. While just listening to music also helps, learning to play an instrument brings with it a comforting routine of daily practice that helps in keeping the stress hormones away.
Makes you smarter
People who have received a music education are generally smarter than their non-musical counterparts are. Extensive research done in this area has proved that children who learn to play a Djembe do better in academics.
Improves your social life
Music helps you connect. Learning an instrument enlarges your social circle since you get to meet more people than you usually would. In children, music can help develop social skills.
Helps build confidence
Choosing to take music lessons can help build confidence. Once you are aware that you are able to do something well, like play the flute for instance, you naturally become more confident of your skills. Learning to play an instrument can help both children and adults who face confidence issues.
Music teachers feel that music can help teach patience. In a world of instant gratification, learning to play an instrument is not something that can happen overnight. It is the daily effort of everyday practice that can help a musician learn how to play without mistakes. This is turn develops patience. Most musicians go through years of regular practice that includes daily musical exercises and the tackling of progressively difficult musical pieces, which in turn helps them conquer the virtue of patience.
Stuck in everyday routine lives, many of us lose touch with our creative side. Learning to play a Djembe, especially when you reach advanced levels, can foster that lost creativity. Since music education plays on your mental, emotional and cognitive abilities, the brain is stimulated to think out of the ordinary, which results in improved creativity.
Music and memory go hand in hand. Learning to play a Djembe makes you use both parts of your brain and this in turn boosts memory power. Music education is also linked to higher IQ levels and the physical development of certain parts of the brain.
Music requires dedication and regular practice. Allotting a specific amount of time to practice music daily develops discipline in the learner. This can prove to be extremely advantageous in children.
Gives you a sense of achievement
Learning to play a Djembe gives you an immense sense of achievement. This feeling of satisfaction leads to a tremendous sense of self-achievement that can help you accomplish more in other areas of your life.
Playing a Djembe is fun
Lastly, learning to play a Djembe is fun. Playing a Djembe can bring back the fun factor into your life. Music has the special quality to bring joy, peace and fulfillment that helps lift the spirit and make life enjoyable for everyone involved.
The Djembe are fun and easy to play a musical instrument. As long as you have some grasp on the rhythm you will be able to produce some nice tunes with a bongo. Not only is it a popular and easy instrument to play, it is also a great musical instrument for kids and introduces to them the backbone of music which is rhythm. This list and buying guide should help you narrow down your shortlist of the best Djembe on the market today.
Now that we’ve reached the end of this post, hopefully you’ve found a djembe you’ll be happy with, and hopefully I’ve educated you enough to know exactly what this instrument is all about.