- Fri Jun 06, 2008 10:22 pm
Hey thanks for the shout out, Dugufola and Bops.
I would love to chime in (apologies as this is more stream of consciousness than anything). I would like to first say that I have never met a djembe that I didn't like (with the exception of the lathe-carved djembes coming out of Bali and Indonesia and most touristy djembes from Ghana) ... I have been totally in awe of the djembe since I first saw it in the hands of a true master, Abdoul Doumbia. Since that time, I have been very focused on exploring all the djembe has to offer. This passion has led me to partner with Abdoul to bring some of the finest and best sounding djembes from Mali to the states. I prefer to build the djembes here in the states versus having them assembled in Mali as like to build up the shells with the highest quality components possible and put in the necessary work to refine the shell to my standards.
I like to tell people that buying a djembe is like getting a shoe, it has to fit - both your hand and the purpose or setting in which you are going to play. But like shoes, many people prefer own more than one pair. The smaller the drum, the higher pitch each sound will be and vice versa for the larger drums.
After putting together a couple hundred or so djembes, dununs, and bugarabus, I would have to say that the best djembes available can be purchased from Drumskull Drums, Wula Drums, Rootsy Records, and from me, One Tree Drums, as well as Irietones (the professional djembes built by Kaz). I admit that while learning the lion share of djembe building from Abdoul and djembefolas in Mali, the work and pursuit of perfection by these djembe retailers has inspired my work as well. I personally own djembes from Drumskulls, Wula Drums, and Rootsy Records, as well as drums that I assemble and offer on my website ... and I am doing my best to limit that number of "personal djembes."
Echoing Dugufola, the best shell is one that is perfectly cured ... just as the sound of violins improve with age, so due djembes (but you may have to change the skin, of course). I have this really rugged looking djembe from Abdoul that is about 50 years old and it simple sounds amazing ... and it's not really cranked. The type of wood is very important too. The djembe is intended to be an outdoor instrument intended to gather people from afar. The harder, denser woods typically used for Mali and Guinea djembes like Khadi/Hare/Gueni, Lenke (usually agreed to be the most traditional/authentic wood for the djembe), Djalla and Gele, Dugura and Beng are usually sought out by experienced players as well as Iroko wood (more medium in weight and density) which is typically used for Ivory Coast djembes. The style or shape of the djembe makes a big difference too. Generally Guinea djembes bass has less sustain, while Mali djembes tend to have a larger and more sustained bass note. More could be said about the tones and slaps, but I have probably already said enough.
Just my thoughts.
BTW, I am posting 10 or so super sweet, freshly assembled djembes next week.
All the best,