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Djembe made in Bali ? - Djembefola - Djembe Forum

For chatting and discussions.
By gerardo1000
I just ordered a 13 inches djembe sold by x8drums.com. They have a great web site with video and audio demos of each djembe they sell.
I choose a "pro-african" djembe named Matahari which looks and sound (in the video clip) great.
I discovered, however, that their djembes are made in Bali. I have read articles that Bali djembes cannot match the quality of west african djembes. But the guys at x8drums. com reassured me and told me that their djembes are of the highest quality woods, skins and are all hand made and hand carved.
I would like to know from some members of this forum if they have experience with drums made in Thailand and if they have ever compared them with West African ones.
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By e2c
The East Asian drums are not (i think) true djembes. For one, they're lathe-turned rather than hand carved. The woods used for real W. African djembe shells are not the ones used in East Asia.

and above all, these are W. African drums. The drums you're talking about may resemble djembes in shape, but the people who are making them have little (if any) knowledge of the traditions and craftsmanship that go into the carving and shaping of the real thing.

If you have a chance to play a well-carved and headed West African shell (from Guinea, Mali, Senegal or Ivory Coast), you will hear the difference.
By gerardo1000
The shop where I ordered the djembe guarantees that their djembes are all hand made and hand carved and that they are built based on theirs specifications. They said they use highest quality thick skin and mahogany wood. I am a beginner and I don't know how much I will be able to spot a difference. Please go to http://www.x8drums.com and listen to their video and audio clips. Specifically, please listen to the clips for the Matahari Djembe size 23/24 inches. I would really appreciate your opinion. Thanks !
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By e2c
I did look, and they seem to be saying that the drums are lathe-turned *and* hand-carved, too. Doesn't make any sense to me, I'm afraid.

You might want to check elsewhere on this site for videos of the process as it's done in Africa; Youtube, too. I don't mean to speak ill of this particular vendor, but ... they certainly seem to be contradictions in what they're saying.

The bottom line is that they've got something to sell. so they're being persuasive. Indonesian "djembes" and Toca or LP "djembes" aren't the real thing, nor are all those drums made out of PVC pipe that are also called "djembes."

Edited to add: Sorry for sounding overly critical, because some of these drums can be very well crafted - but they are (I think) reinterpretations of the djembe form and sound. This happens with other kinds of percussion, too, where things made outside the country/region where the instruments originated can be very, very different in feel and sound - though it doesn't have to be the case.
By gerardo1000
I spoke on the phone with Mark, one of the owners. He explained me that their x8 djembes are made only for them in Bali in a specialized factory, and built to traditional specifications. The wood is mahogany, one solid piece, hand carved outside and then carved inside and then lathe-turned in order to give to the wood inside the spiral pattern that increases the quality of the tone. The skins are from first quality, thick and only from the back of the goat. The ropes are the best ones and the djembes are roped with a 4 keys ring system.
He assured me that the djembe I ordered has an outstanding tone and quality of construction that can rival the best west african professional djembes. In any case they have a 30 days return policy.
I will be glad to post a review after I receive the djembe.
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By e2c
I hope it all works out well for you!

here is some footage of carving:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q77Ypgiw ... re=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUWx2pOe ... re=related

The method of construction - and the quality of the wood used - really do make a difference in sound quality and overall "feel"! :)

[Q for mods: I tried to embed these vids., and it didn't work. Any suggestions? Thanks!]
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By e2c
From http://www.africanrhythmtraders.com/html/buyguide.html
Indonesian Djembes are beautiful on the outside

Plantation Mahogany:
Absolutely smooth and symmetrical

Plantation Mahogany: Indonesia (Bali)
Color: Medium Brown
Weight: Medium Light

In the past decade, we've seen more lathe-turned machine made djembes coming from Indonesia. While exterior carvings are often intricate and beautiful, the inside is cut by a lathe, and is completely smooth, lacking the chiseling that gives African djembes their bass/tone/slap contrast. Pro: Grown using sustainable and often certified growth practices. Con: Poor sound differentiation.
Here is what you really want the inside of the drum to be like, and it can only be achieved by hand carving, using the traditional methods shown in the videos above:

By gerardo1000
I received the djembe today. As expected, it is gorgeous to look at.
The skin really seems to be first quality, thick with the goat's back centered on the head.
Even the interior of the shell looks like the picture of an African djembe that you posted : not smooth and lathe turned at all, but with several indentations and patterns which I understand are important for the sound.
However, I did not "bond" the sound. To my ears, it sounds similar to the Remo synthetic djembe and the industrial-made Meinl wood djembe that I had in the past: i.e. it rings with overtones that
I did not hear in a couple of African djembes that I had the opportunity to play recently.
(a Guinea and a Mali djembe). Those two African djembes had a dry woody sound, very satisfying
to my ears, without "rings" and unwanted metallic overtones.
But they were quite expensive. Perhaps it's my ears, perhaps it's just my mind, perhaps the djembe is slightly de-tuned, I don't know. But I will probably return it, taking advantage of the great kindness and the first rate customer service of the store where I ordered it, and will finally buy a djembe made in Africa.
Thank you for your replies to my post, that I found very useful.
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By e2c
Hi Geraldo,

sorry to hear that the sound of this drum is what it is - IKWYM about the high-quality African drums being expensive, because that put me off for a while. But things got to the point where I really needed to have my own drum, and after trying quite a few (all very high quality drums), I ended up walking off with one of the higher-priced ones. (From Wula Drums.) it simply sounded and felt better than the others I tried, and I haven't regretted my decision.

Back in the day, I wanted to learn to play Appalachian dulcimer, and I got a cheap instrument that really was frustrating. I played it for a few months, but then ordered a nice one from a highly recommended luthier. The difference was incredible in every respect. But maybe the most important thing was this: it made me want to play and practice.

The same is true of drums, I think.

Here's hoping that you find the kind of drum you really want! I'm glad that I could be of some help; there are other threads here where buying (etc.) is discussed, and you might want to check those out - lots of great info. from various members.
By gerardo1000
I went to a great Michigan guitar and drums store, Huber and Breese, and played a few Meinl African rope-tuned djembes, They were very very good to my ears. Now, I KNOW that they are made in Indonesia and not in West Africa, but they really sounded good, with no rings and unwanted overtones.
The shell was beautifully carved and it was not smooth inside: on the opposite, it had a very visible spiral pattern that I believe helps to cut the unwanted rings and overtone.
The cost of this djembes (13th inches) is arounf 40 % less than a good djembe made in Mali or Guinea.
I decided to buy one. And I am happy.
By johnc
hey gerardo

glad to read your happy with your drum .

one thing e2c did not delve into is...that with a west african djembe comes a west african vibe. Much like the experience of having a lesson with a west african teacher is something quite apart from a lesson with a very good playing white fella.

much of the love for the djembe seems to have at its heart its african connection. African rhythms, played on an African drum as taught by an African teacher. Even a few lessons from a African teacher are priceless.

just a thought for the future...but better to have a drum than not

User avatar
By e2c
john c, I definitely was implying it. ;) As for a "good playing white fella," there are some non-Africans here who really do play with an African feeling; it's their passion. The folks who are truly dedicated to W. African drum and dance are in a whole different category than many who play djembe but don't know much about the culture from which it comes. (I think.)

geraldo, am glad to hear that you've found a drum you like; maybe in time you will end up with several drums. If so, I hope that one of them has a well-carved shell from Guinea, Mali, Ivory Coast (etc.). I think you'll find much to love there.
Last edited by e2c on Sun Aug 10, 2008 3:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
By johnc
true true about the "white fellas" (local indigenous term for us of european decent in Ozz) Simon Fraser is a stand out for this and his shop could be placed in any west African city and look in place.

Yet it is the little nuances of an African teacher, like "you must touch the tree" instead of the edge or the wood etc.

So far most of my learning has come from inspired non africans including a few women.

drumming is good

User avatar
By e2c
Hey, I thought it might be Aussie slang! No worries here. ;)

I haven't yet been able to study with an African teacher, actually, though I'm very much looking forward to it. Would have gone to the closest Famoudou Konate workshop here (in late May) if gas prices weren't quite so high... am hoping I'll be able to make it next time around.
By gerardo1000
Well, I finally decided to invest some more money, and sell my djembe MADE IN BALI,
in order to buy a djembe MADE IN MALI. All I can say is: you were right.
It is another thing, and I say that with all respect for my indonesian Meinl djembe.
Thank you for your tips and suggestions.
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