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In Africa, drums have more significant meaning than just entertainment. Drums were used to communicate. They were used during times of peace and war; births, marriages, and funerals; planting and harvesting; and even celebration and mourning. Drums were always a part of and helped define most African cultures; the use of the drum was intertwined into every day life.

The most popular of the drums, the Djembe drum, is a very versatile drum because it can make a wide variety of sounds.

Drums are not just played by anybody, in many societies, drums can only be played by men. In other societies there is a lead drummer who everyone else must follow.

“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 Sundiata, or praise certain professions, like the cobblers or hunters.”

Check out the video to hear Babatunde Olatunji speak on the history of Djembe African Drumming! I encourage you to read up some more on the history of African drumming.


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