Djembe Construction eBook Give-Away

Hi folks,
for those of you who would like to learn how to build or re-skin a djembe, I’ve just finished a book:
Djembe Construction: A Comprehensive Guide cover image
I have five copies of the book to give away as a free download. If you are interested in getting a copy, all you need to do is send a short message to and go to the page on Facebook and like the post there about the give-away by 20 May 2012. James will randomly select five winners from the entries he receives.
In return, all I ask is that, once you have read the book, you post a review in the iTunes store and on (And no, I don’t expect a positive review, just an honest review.)
Finally, before you enter, you need an iPad to view the book. (I’m sorry, I would love to make the book available on other eReaders, but the technology isn’t there yet.) The book will be no good to you unless you have an iPad, or can ask a friend to download the book and let you view it on their iPad.

Djembe and African drumming tours in West Africa

There are many options available to you if you want to study drumming in Africa. It would be a tall order to list all of the available options, but we’ve put together a nice cross section of available options.

Whether you haven’t yet taken the trip to West Africa, or you have been dozens of times, we think you’ll find this selection interesting.

All of the tours listed here are offering a discount to anybody that mentions when they register.

Class with Akassa Cissoko in Casamance

Rhythm Power Ghana 2011

Simon in Melbourne has been running this great tour to Ghana for a few years now. Teachers will be master drumming Tuza and Adamane and Madou Keita from Burkina Faso.

Simon is offering a US$200 discount for people who mention when they book.

More information can be found on the event page for Rhythm Power Ghana 2011.

Mamady Keita in Guinea Conakry

This is probably one of the best known and most popular tours to Guinea every year. Monette and Mamady are offering a US$100 discount to people who mention, when they register. This means that the course will cost $1850 instead of $1950.

Here is more details of the Mamady Keita drum camp.

Trip to Guinea with Bolokada Conde

Bolokada is offering housing, food, class and transport to the villages from Dec. 10 and ends Jan. 14. He is offering a discount of up to US$20 per week (so up to US$120) to people who mention when they register.

For more info check out the event page for Bolokada Conde’s trip to Guinea.

Seckou Keita in Senegal 2011

Seckou has been bringing students to Abene in Senegal for quite some time now. He puts enphasis on his workshop being for intermediate to advanced players. Chelima and Sekou are offering a £25 discount to people who mention

Here is more information on Seckou Keita in Senegal in 2011.

Travel to Guinea with Bongo Sidibe and Joti Singh

This trip normally costs $500 per week. Joti and Bongo are offering a reduction $50 per week ($450 per Week). This means that 5 weeks will cost $2000 (not $2250).

More details on travelling to Guinea with Bongo Sidibe

Travel to Mali with Abdul Doumbia

This year Paddy and Otehlia Cassidy are organising a tour to Mali with Abdul Doumbia. If the amazing music of Mali is your thing, then be sure to have a closer look at this tour. Paddy and Abdoul are offering a $50 discount on to people who mention when they register.

Click here for more details.

Travel to Guinea with MBemba Bangoura, 2011

This tour to Guinea with M’bemba Bangoura is organised by Michael Markus. Michael and M’bemba are offering a US$25 discount to anyone who mentions when they register.

Click here for more details.

Cultural Study and Drum Tours to The Gambia, West Africa with King Marong

This tour is open to all people who are passionate about African music and culture. King is offering a US$20 discount to anyone who mentions while registering.

Click here for more details

Thinking about taking a trip? Be sure to check out our article on Studying drumming in West Africa, if you haven’t already done so.

Any questions, comments, criticisms? Maybe you’ve been to West Africa, and think I forgot to mention something? Let us know in the comments.

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Study Drumming in Africa

It is really quite common for djembe lovers to travel to West Africa between November and March. The weather tends to be best around this time of year and it coincides with the winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

There are many options for those thinking about making the trip. Due to package tours, the cheapest flights are often found from London to Banjul, in The Gambia. Big operators like Air France also operate from Paris to the Ouagadougou, Bamako, Dakar and Conakry starting from about 700 euro.

There are several options available to you when embarking on such an adventure. By far the easiest option available to you is to go with one of several extremely well organised tours.

This is often a very good option for even the most ardent of seasoned, independent travellers. West Africa poses some unique challenges and can be overwhelming the first time you land and it’s easy enough to find yourself in tricky situations.

Paying rent and staying in a compound is definitely an option, but there can often be many unexpected surprises and additional expenses that you didn’t see coming. Likewise agreeing a price with a teacher has been known to not always be the end of the conversation.

This is often understandable when people circumstances or the situation is taken into account, but for some people this can become stressful.

Some feel that it’s easier to just go with a tour, that way you know exactly what you’re paying for and you can have a pretty good idea what to expect.

Going with a tour and usually a known teacher you benefit in many ways:

  1. Less stress – everything is generally organised for you, from airport transfers to food
  2. Local knowledge – The person will likely be able to give you good advice about tuition, buying instruments etc
  3. Performances – Tours visiting compound are usually an opportunity for local artists to perform and teach. As such you can usually look forward to an array or artists and plenty of friendly people around.
  4. Knowing what you’re paying for
  5. Less uncertainty, especially if this isn’t the first year of the tour.
Performance in Famoudou's house
Performance in Famoudou's house

If you decide that a tour is for you then there are many things to further consider. These include:

  • Group size – smaller is better. If the group will be split, which group are you going to be in and who’s going to be teaching it?
  • Food – if you are a fussy eater this may be a consideration for you. One of the benefits of an organised tour is not having to worry about food. You may end up worried anyway if you don’t take a liking to the food you’re getting though. I distinctly remember this being an issue for many people on a tour I was on in Guinea.

    Many tour operators specifically mention food and it’s worth asking about if you think could be something that concerns you.

  • The teacher – the styles of teaching and playing can vary hugely from teacher to teacher. Make sure you know the teacher or have at least spoken to somebody who have studied with them before.
  • Style – leading on from above you may want to consider the style of djembe you are interested in working on. There is a big difference between the way djembe is played in different countries in West Africa
  • Where – As with style, where you want to be is an extremely important consideration. Besides the obvious, it is worth considering if you would like to visit the villages or whether you would just be happy to stay in a capital.

    Many tours offer trips to the villages and these can be an amazing opportunity to see the culture in it’s traditional setting, and experience life in the village for a while.

  • Authenticity – some people have a preference to go to a source who will teach them original phrasing and parts. I can tell you that it is very different learning dundunbe from Famoudou Konate who’s from Hamana (where the rhythm is from) and learning it from Harouna Dembele from Burkina Faso. This may or may not be of concern to you.
  • Language – Most West African countries are ex-French colonies, so French is spoken by people there much more than English. This can be quite a barrier to getting to know local people, and it may be something to consider when you decide where you would like to go.

    The Gambia and Ghana are both English speaking, but neither is traditionally a djembe playing country. There is plenty of music and culture in these countries though. There are plenty of Guinean djembe players living in the Gambia, some tours to Ghana have been known to bring djembe teachers from Burkina Faso and other countries specifically for tours.

    Ghana itself has a fantastic culture of drumming of it’s own. From the Ewe drumming to the Kpanlogo of the Ga people.

If you’re interested in making the trip you have a wealth of options. From independent travel, to tours and even something quite in the middle, like the djembe hotel.

Be sure to check out our article on drumming study tours in Africa, which include a break down of some of the best djembe and drumming tours in Africa. We have also managed to negotiate quite a few serious discounts for people who book a tour and mention

Any questions, comments, criticisms? Maybe you’ve been to West Africa, and think I forgot to mention something? Let us know in the comments.

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