Happy new year

Happy new year to you all. I hope you enjoyed your holidays.

As some of you know we have been running a “Rhythm of the month” for a while, where we focus our collective efforts on a nominated rhythm for a month.

Soko was a great sharing of information and while the ROM has been on a break, we’ve been pulling some of the material together into a more easily digestable form for you to enjoy.

This includes a great collection of cultural information, drumming videos, notation, learning resources and more.

You can also see the first release of our notation player in action. This allows you to press play on drum notation and it will play it for you.

At this point it still have some limitations:

1) it will only play djembe rhythms, not dundun rhythms yet.

2) If will only work in Google chrome because other browers aren’t yet strong enough for the work load….

Have a look and see what you think, any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

I hope this year brings you all you can dream of and more! If you know other people who would appreciate this, then please do share it with them, and like it on facebook.

Free stuff, xmas discounts and cool xmas presents

Christmas is coming fast and for a lot of people that mean’s gifts given and received. We guess you’re like us, and would love to give and receive cool drumming stuff, so we have created a list of some great gifts that would make any djembe lover happy regardless of level and experience.


1) Premium limited edition Djembefola bags

It can be difficult of find a high quality djembe bag. They are often beautiful, but seldom last longer than a few months.

These bags are designed by Drumskulls and are perhaps the best djembe bags that money can buy, all of the parts and material is top quality, and these bags are made to last.

We are giving you 12% off these awesome bags and we expect them to be snapped up fast.

Learn more about these awesome bags


2) Djembe pro by Tasumakan

These are exceptional quality learning videos that have something for all levels of djembe player. My favourite part of these videos is that Paddy teaches awesome djembe solo for each rhythm that is inspiring and increases with complexity.

The slower solo breakdown makes it easy to learn bit by bit, so that by the end of it I’m playing phrases that were previously outside my vocabulary and skill level.

Each rhythm’s video lesson contains the dunduns, djembe accompaniments and solo (with slower break down and explanation), as well as great cultural explanation video. These can be used on your phone, iPad, iPod, mp3 player or laptop / mac book.

You can get a 20% discount on all Tasumakan products with the coupon code HAPPYXMAS. This coupon is valid until the 12th of December.

Learn more about Djembe pro


3) Djembe basics by Tasumakan

The perfect start for any beginner or djembe player who’s only playing for a few years. This awesome product from Tasumakan teaches you all the theory, tips and tricks that you can’t read or see anywhere else, and that usually takes years to figure out.

How to hold your drum, different timings, calls etc. It also includes a number of drills, exercises and djembe accompaniments.

These can be used on your phone, iPad, iPod, mp3 player or laptop / mac book.

You can get a 20% discount on all Tasumakan products with the coupon code HAPPYXMAS. This coupon is valid until the 12th of December.

Learn more about Djembe basics


4) Rhythm reference library

Rhythm reference is a collection of 50 Traditional Rhtyhms recorded by Ballet de Merveille lead soloist Fara Tolno. It is probably the largest single library of traditional West African djembe dundun rhythms.

It is made up of audio recordings of all the dunduns, the djembe accompaniments, and Each Rhythm also includes djembe solo phrases from Fara with 3 levels of difficulty for Beginner, intermediate and advanced players.

Here’s a free sample, or the level 2 Sinte solo.

These can be put on your iPod / mp3 player or phone and used anytime you have your device with you.

Take a look at the the library if you haven’t already done so!

You can get a 20% discount on the Rhythm Reference DjembeFola20. This coupon is valid until the 12th of December.


5) 10% off all products from Drumskulls

Drumskulls has probably the most comprehensive inventory of African music, instruments and particuarly drums. The quality of their instruments and products are 2nd to none.

We have convinced them to give you a 10% discount on any product in their store when you use the coupon code DJEMBEFOLA2014. This coupon is valid until the 26th of December.

That’s it folks, happy holidays! If this email has been of use to you and you think some of your friends would enjoy it, or you just want them to get the free stuff too, or maybe you’d like to drop a hint to a loved one, please do forward it to them :)

Happy 2013 – May all your tones and slaps ring true!

Apparently students that set goals achieve far more than those that don’t, so now is a great time to set yourself new drumming goals for 2013.

I don’t know where you were for new year eve, but next year I’m aiming for something like a Boka Juniors New Years party!
The Boka Juniors were created by the late Boka Camara, who was much loved and respected. Someone recently posted a compilation video of some of Boka Camara’s best moments, while playing with Harouna Dembele, Thomas Guei and friends.

Someone’s innocent introduction to the forum recently turned into a really interesting chat about the categorization of djembe rhythms into families. This thread includes, some great discussion, audio samples and several great articles that have been translated from French.

If you missed it, also be sure to check out the documentary “In Guinea with Famaoudou Konate” made by a student who travelled to Guinea to study with Famoudou Konate.

If that’s not enough for you, then also check out this great Fodé Seydou Bangoura drumming performance, recorded live in Portugal last October.

That’s all for now, feel free to forward this to anyone who you think might like it, and connect with us on Facebook.


Whether your drumming is hot or cool – the djembefola.com community round up

Sabar Dancing at Mama Africa 2010

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is here and the drumming season is going into high gear. Now is the time to head out for gigs, drum circles, drumming camps and weekend workshops.  For our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, it is the dead of winter, which is the perfect time to hunker down and practice, head out to clubs, or maybe even take a trip to someplace warm.

Traveling with your drum?  For most of us, the first time we pack a drum for a plane trip, we are worried about how it is going to fare in the hold of a plane at 35,000 feet.   This thread gives some thoughts on finding a great bag to help keep your drum safe in flight.

For me, living in New England in the USA, humidity is a big factor in how my drums sound in the summertime, so here are a few tips on keeping drums tuned and sounding their best.

Rachel's djembe gets a new head

Of course, drum heads can break at any time of the year.  (One of my djembe head’s just let go this week.)  If your head does break, now is a great time to learn how to replace it.  Michi Hennings new ebook, Djembe Construction, takes you step by step through the process.  His ebook is for Ipad only, though, so if If you don’t have one, try Shorty Palmer’s video on how to rehead a djembe.  I have been reheading drums for a few years now and it is a GREAT skill to have.

But what if you have a dud shell that isn’t worth reheading?  Visit ‘Uses for a broken djembe‘ for some suggestions!



If you have some free time, how about working on your core drumming skills?  These threads have some suggestions for things to focus on:

Building your Core Drumming Repertoire

Playing drums with your dominant hand

Exercises to improve your bass, tone and slap

So, whether it is winter or summer, the drumming is hot.  Why not post your favorite seasonal drumming tips in the comments?

Mama Africa 2012 – 5 Reasons you should go drum camps and festivals

For those of us in the Northern hemisphere, summer is here and for anyone in Europe that means that the Mama Africa festival 2012 is fast approaching. For Europeans it’s not too late to book flights or drive and have a summer holiday that you’ll love.

If you’re not in Europe there are a number of djembe and drumming Festivals on around the world. You should see if there’s on near you! These reasons apply to any drum camp or festival.

1) Workshops with some of the best djembe players and drummers, dancers and musicians

Dance class - Mama Africa 2010

This year the teachers going include:

You can see a list of all artists here.

One thing I loved last time is that you have some amazing drummers playing for the dance classes with really talented dance teachers and participants. Watching the dance classes is a great way to chill and soak up the atmosphere…

Harouna Dembele Solo, Mama Africa Festival from James Farrell on Vimeo.

2) Breathtaking performances every night

There are also performances each night from some great bands like Harouna Demebele‘s Parisi and Ba Cissokho.

Wamali – “Guinea” at the Mama Africa Festival 2010 from James Farrell on Vimeo.

3) Meet great people, who love what you love

Make new friends and be inspired by the skills and enthusiasm of those around you. The best part of Mama Africa is meeting other people who share your enthusiasm about djembe, drumming and dancing.

4) Try something new
These festivals are the best time to try something different. Every want to try balafon, flute or Ngoni? There are plenty of opportunities and workshops around that you can take advantage of.

How about some Sabar dancing or drumming

5) Where better to relax and have a great holiday!

Where better to take your holidays and unwind than beautiful Tuscany in Italy?

I will definitely be going to Mama Africa again (maybe even this year if I can convince my friend to come with me). If Mama African is too far away from you, perhaps there is something similar on close to you.

What camps and festivals are you looking forward to this year?

A Tribute to Paul Engel

The '80s-'90s Famoudou Konaté Ensemble, with Famoudou Konaté, Paul Engel, Fanta Kaba & Silvia Kronewald

This was written by and is being published here with permission of the Chicago Djembe project.

This email is a tribute to Paul Bernard Engel (b. 9/28/1951), the grandfather of the German Djembe Community (http://www.paul-djembe.de) who blessed so many people’s lives –professionally and personally.
Paul Bernhard Engel passed away on June 12, 2012. Everyone — especially younger drummers who hadn’t even begun playing djembe “back in the day” — should know who Paulwas.

Together with his partner Silvie Kronewald, who also died prematurely (in 1997), Paul was one of the first to bring knowledge (even awareness!) of Malinke music to the Western world, introducing European musicians to its intricacies and nuances with a fierce dedication.

In North America, many djembe students and teachers may have seen his name on a classic CD: in the 1980s, Paul Engel was contracted by the Ethnological Museum of Berlin to produce field recordings of the legendary Famoudou Konate on location in Conakry/Simbaya. Since these recordings were released in 1991, along with extensive liner notes and notation, this CD has become a Malinke classic. Known in many English-speaking circles as “the Museum CD”, “Rhythmen der Malinke” was one of the first recorded documents of traditional Malinke music in Guinea.

The six-year period (1986-1991) that Paul Engel and Silvie Kronewald spent working intimately, and exclusively, with Famoudou Konaté (former first soloist for the National Ballet of Guinea/Les Ballets Africains de Guineé) — organizing workshops, concerts, classes and European tours with Konaté and his entourage (Fanta Kaba, Daouda Kourouma, and others) — represented a profound turning point in Paul’s life. Paul was already an accomplished guitarist, pianist and percussionist when he first began working with Konaté — he was well-versed in Latin American traditions, and had become an expert on “Adama Dramé-technique” from extensive study and collaboration with Dramé in Germany, France and Senegal; he had also studied with members of the Tettey-Addy family in Ghana.

But none of these traditions captivated his genius the way the rhythms of the Malinke did.Paul made a significant and pioneering contribution to the worldwide understanding of this music by transcribing Malinke rhythms as they were played by master drummers in Guinean villages–in their entirety, with bass lines, variations, solos — into classical Western musical notation. Paul’s transcription of these rhythms — both in classic Western notation and in the modified notational system he devised to bring them “to paper” even for students of the music who do not read music — represent invaluable documentation of a musical form and musical events that may have otherwise been lost. Paul played a pivotal role in developing the intensive workshop format and pedagogical approach that has since become an international standard for quality instruction in the rhythms of the Malinke.

Through years of annual, extended stays in West Africa and playing at traditional festivals there (with Adama Dramé, Famoudou Konaté, Mamady Keita, Fadouba Olaré, Daouda Kourouma, Noumoudy Keita, and many others), Paul developed an incredible and profound understanding of the music and culture of the Malinke, which he shared freely and expertly with all of his students. In 1986, Paul was the first European drummer to bring students (a small group of drummers from Berlin) to study on location in Conakry, Guinea.

His dedication to the music, to his students, and his expert pedagogy soon made him one of the most sought-after teachers in Germany and Europe. From 1994 to 2010, he offered multi-year training seminars in Malinke music at his compound in Germany. His passion for Malinke music was matched by an intense passion for teaching, and for his students. Paulwas not only a skilled and extremely knowledgeable music instructor and professional musician, he was an extraordinary human being who shared valuable life wisdom as freely and with as much passion as he had for the music. His brilliant ear for precision and perfection in the music was equally open and attentive to his students’ non-musical concerns, and he could always be counted upon to provide genuine and wise counsel. Paulmasterfully combined passion, precision and perfection to a work of art in his relationships to the music, and to the students’ whose lives have been so enriched by his own.

Students came to Paul from all over Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark and Sweden to participate in Paul’s intensive training program — the first ever of its kind, not only in Europe, but in the world. Many of Paul’s former students have gone on to become professionals in their own right — and there is hardly a qualified instructor or student of Malinke music who does not ultimately trace his/her lineage back to Paul Engel, Grandfather of the European Djembe Community. In almost every German city, there is a djembe instructor who was trained by Paul Engel — but his contributions have benefited international djembe communities — from Holland to Japan, the US, Canada and beyond.

In 2010, Paul suffered a heart attack, then lay in a coma for three weeks and never fully recovered.

Please send positive thoughts, love and rhythms to accompany Paul on his last journey with the drums. Drum for him, if you can.

In loving memory of an excellent teacher and extraordinary human being, and a true friend, we wish him all the best on this last leg of his journey.

(Posted on behalf of Paul Engel’s students and friends in Europe and North America.)

Build djembe drumming speed, stamina and improve your djembe technique

Super fast Thomas Guei - (C) Associazione DJEMBE - www.djembe.it

There are many different core skills needed to play djembe well. All of these areas need attention and often the fastest way to improve your drumming is to focus on each of these core aspects individually.

On the forum, some people were discussing what they are working on, and I realised that a youtube video that claims to show a Thomas Guei solo phrase was getting some attention. I had come across it myself recently and I’ve even heard it mentioned here in Berlin, by a friend of mine who’s been playing it for a while.

I decided to give it a go as it has a few characteristics that are interesting and I have a few reasons for thinking that it could be good for my drumming.

Having figured out and written down what it actually is, I’m less convinced that this is an actual solo phrase. It’s timing is straight, and I don’t find it particlarly musical, but then Thomas does do some crazy stuff that you don’t really see other people doing. He must be one of the fastest djembe players in history. Here’s a little clip of him showing us what he can do.

It would be very interesting if someone could post a video clip of Thomas playing this phrase, or tell us that he taught it to them. I commented on the original video, and the person who posted it says that it’s a phrase that Thomas often plays, but that it wasn’t Thomas who taught it to him.

Regardless of it’s origins, I think it’s definitely useful for working on your technique, stamina and speed.

Once you’ve begun to create clear on consistent tones and slaps, one challenge that comes next is to be able to maintain the same clarity in pitch at speed. It is very common to see the quality of your notes deteriorate at speed, and focusing on improving this requires playing the same thing repeatedly.

If you were to play this phrase, starting slowly and then building up speed it would certainly begin to push your abilities.

The phrase is interesting in that the first part cycles every 5 16th notes and is a mixture of slaps tones and flams. It is also interesting that the last 4 notes are played <right hand><right hand><left hand><left hand>, which would certainly pull me out of my normal way of playing. It also makes me wonder about why the handing would be such, unless you were doing magic miming with your hands at the same time.

I have notated the phrase so that anyone who’s interested can learn it at their own pace. The big letters are for dominant hand (right hand for most) and the smaller letters are for non-dominant hand.

Let me know what you think? How do you work on improving your djembe technique? What about your stamina and speed?

Credits: Thanks to Associazione DJEMBE – www.djembe.it, for the cool photo of  Thomas.

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 james@djembefola.com and go to the djembefola.com 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 djembefola.com. (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.

New CD from Drissa Kone and Sanza – “Naani” – cd review and give away


I just listened to “Naani”, the new CD by Sanza. Sanza has four members:

Drissa Kone hardly needs an introduction, being among the most respected and well-known professional djembe players in Bamako. Of the currently active professionals there, he probably best represents the minimalist traditional Malian style.

Gerhard Kero plays dundun and konkoni on this recording. He is a long-time student of Drissa and, together with Ulli Sanou, runs the beatfactory percussion school in Austria.

Ulli Sanou, also a long-time student of Drissa, plays accompaniment djembe.

Oumou Mariko is a professional dancer from Bamako. While you won’t be able to see her brilliant dancing on the CD, you will hear her voice, which is stunningly beautiful.

There are eleven tracks on the CD, recorded in excellent sound quality by Otto Trapp:

1. Deme sebe
2. Nyumaya
3. Mali Fasa
4. Tumani
5. Biriko
6. Juguya
7. I Ka Wale
8. Sanfinye
9. Deme
10. Burun
11. Eh Mogolu

The names are modern because these are not strictly traditional rhythms. Instead, they are current-day interpretations that are based on traditional rhythms. For example, Deme Sebe has its roots in Madan, I Ka Wale in Sunu, Nyumaya in Suku, Juguya in Garangedon. and Sanfinye is a modern interpretation of Bolokonondo.

Drissa, Gerhard, and Ulli lay down a groove on these tracks that is incredibly relaxed and, above everything else, musical. This is one of the most melodic djembe recordings in my collection. Drissa’s playing is soulful and expressive, clearly coming from a Malian traditional base, but infused with modern style elements that allow him more freedom of expression than purely traditional phrasing would. Gerhard’s dundun work is flawless, played with both precision and feeling, and Ulli’s accompaniment rock-solid.

Every track feature’s Oumou’s beautiful vocals. Her singing is out of this world. Rich, expressive, and warm, without some of the shrill variations that are often part of the traditional style, it is easy to get immersed in the melodies.

The overall result is a recording that is extremely easy to listen to. This isn’t a recording only for African drumming aficionados, but something that even the non-cognoscenti will enjoy. There are no complex ballet-style arrangements, and there is no wara wara from Drissa. That’s not to say that he plays slowly. It’s just that Drissa’s experience tempers the playing such that the music is never forgotten, and he never steps over the line where his playing would degenerate into showing off. There is none of the “see how fast I can play” egotistical wizardry, only music that is played with incredible feel and respect. In my opinion, Drissa’s blend of modern and traditional style firmly establishes him as the Toumani Diabaté of the djembe world.

I consider this one of the best recordings in my collection. It certainly has made my top-ten list, and I expect it to become a classic of contemporary Malian style. Five stars out of five!

The CD can be purchased directly from Gerhard Kero on his website Beat Factory.

We’re giving away 2 free copies of the CD. To be entered in this draw, all you have to do is like our post about the Naani CD give away on the djembefola.com facebook page.