The best of djembe in 2011

The end of the year is arriving and many of us are going or know people going to Africa. Whether your finalising plans or fighting your jealousy, it feels like a good time to look back on some of the highlights and happenings that stand out in the djembe world in the last 12 months.

Mamady and Famoudou during the Grandmasters tour

Whether you wonder about whether global interest in djembe is declining or not, djembe, dunun and even some traditional dance moves made it’s way onto American idol this year.

Though not everyone was impressed, perhaps a tip of the hat in the right direction, or even a mention of what them things were that those guys were banging on, might have pushed those search numbers up a little?

I just hope that Remo didn’t get a mention in the show credits.

It feels to me that this year has been one for a bit of controversy, there have been disagreements between drum producers and exporters from Africa and Indonesia, but at least people began to talk about the effects of the djembe industry on the environment.

Most seem to agree that djembe’s themselves are a very small cause of deforestation compared to other industries, such as wood export and furniture. A lot of criticism has indeed been levelled at China for wiping huge quantities of wood in Guinea, before regulations were reviewed which brought an end to this.

China’s response? Stone djembes, which I’ve heard from several people actually sound quite good (considering they’re made of stone).

Tam Tam Mandeng certification has been discussed before, but earlier this year the association caused a stir, when they announced their intention to release a Tam Tam Mandeng grading system, for students who are studying with Tam Tam Mandeng’s instructors.

It doesn’t seem like participation will be compulsory and the details haven’t been hammered out yet, so it’s perhaps to early to read too much into it. Indeed I know highly respected people who think that this is a good idea, and I can understand how it would motivate some ‘goal oriented’ people in a positive way.

It will be interesting to see how this is organised and begins to manifest in 2012.

For me it though, it was perhaps 2 of the greatest living djembefolas, who were at the heart of the most memorable moment of the year.

Mamady Keita and Famoudou Konate finally managed to pull off something they had wanted to do for a long time. A sell out tour of the US, teaching side by side, sharing their love and their philosophy and experience of this music to a few lucky students.

Their message:

The djembe is the symbol of joy and that between djembefolas you must have repect, and not be jealous of each other.

Here’s a full transcript of that message.

I really feel like there is a lot of escalating energy in the djembe world at the moment, and I can’t wait to see what next year will bring. We definitely have a number of exciting projects here at djembefola.com that are going to blossom this year, so if you’re not already signed up to our newsletter yet, make sure you do so now, to get the latest articles / videos and news first.

This is just my take on what have been memorable this year. What did I miss? Do you have enduring memories or experiences you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

PS: Special thanks to Bernd (who shares the djembe in Arizona) for the use of his awesome photo. You can see more of Bernd’s work on his Fine art photography website.

Author: James

James loves music, especially Djembe drum music. He has been studying traditional djembe drumming since 2004. Nearly all his free time goes into developing djembefola.com.

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