Discuss culture and traditions
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By michi
#26120
Dugafola wrote:i think the term 'djun djun' stems from Babatunde....supposedly there's a very similar nigerian bass drum called the djundjun.
e2c wrote:Duga - I'd bet money on the Olatunji connection.
"Dunun" (or however you want to spell it) is an onomatopoeic word. (The word sounds like the thing it names.) Given that, it wouldn't surprise me at all that there are African drums somewhere that are (correctly) called "djun djun". But the Malinke version doesn't belong in that category.

Cheers,

Michi.
By TNT
#26122
Wow some pot I stirred just trying to learn the history of the Djembe.....

What about the possibility of some other hits I found that the drum dates back over a millennium and there is no creditable source of its origin? What if back then the drum was used to send spiritual messages?

No offense, but can anyone think outside of the box other than what this thread finds as ‘truth’? Or are there no other remote possibilities from what is posted above or in goggle?

I’m just a noob without all the big words, history, asking dumb questions to ya all I’m sure, but I for one believe drummers across the world are called upon spiritually, you have that connection or you don't. Sometimes there is no logical explanation for it, no history we know or have experienced, no rhyme or reasons, no words, just drums and some greater power (let’s just call it that for kicks and grins to not offend cultures). Or, if you can make sense of history that possibly dates that far back with fact or the spiritual world tell me cause I wanna know.

I could point you all to some history and writtings that date so far back all we have is what is written by PEOPLE that were there, as Michi points out we all makes mistakes and over time who knows what the truth is. :D
Last edited by TNT on Thu Apr 05, 2012 12:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
By Waraba
#26123
TNT wrote:Wow some pot I stirred just trying to learn the history of the Djembe.....


No offense, but can anyone think outside of the box other than what this thread finds as ‘truth’? Or are there no other remote possibilities from what is posted above or in goggle?
.
It's hard for me not to feel offended by your attitude. I'm trying, but it's hard.
By TNT
#26124
Waraba wrote:
TNT wrote:Wow some pot I stirred just trying to learn the history of the Djembe.....


No offense, but can anyone think outside of the box other than what this thread finds as ‘truth’? Or are there no other remote possibilities from what is posted above or in goggle?
.
It's hard for me not to feel offended by your attitude. I'm trying, but it's hard.
Maybe if you put my statements back in the context they we written might help. Read the intention, it's easy for anyone to get offended by taking out of context and not assuming the best intentions in the medium we have to communicate. :D

I'm not the best writer, sorry if I offend anyone not my intention.
User avatar
By michi
#26125
TNT wrote:What about the possibility of some other hits I found that the drum dates back over a millennium and there is no creditable source of its origin? What if back then the drum was used to send spiritual messages?
Due to the lack of written records in African culture, there is no way to know exactly how old the drum is. We know for certain that it already existed in colonial times. How much longer it existed before that is unknown. There is speculation that the drum may have existed as far back as the Mali empire (around 1200 A.D.) and spread across West Africa with the migration of the Numu (blacksmiths), who are credited with the making of the instrument. But that time frame may be longer or shorter. We have no evidence either way.

The djembe may or may not have been used to send messages in the past. We have no evidence either way. We do have evidence that, since colonial times, the drum was not used to send messages. Any claim that the drum was (or was not) used to send messages (spiritual or otherwise) prior to that is therefore outside the realm of knowledge and firmly inside the realm of speculation until evidence is found to confirm or refute one or the other.
I’m just a noob without all the big words, history, asking dumb questions to ya all I’m sure, but I for one believe drummers across the world are called upon spiritually, you have that connection or you don't. Sometimes there is no logical explanation for it, no history we know or have experienced, no rhyme or reasons, no words, just drums and some greater power (let’s just call it that for kicks and grins to not offend cultures). Or, if you can make sense of history that possibly dates that far back with fact or the spiritual world tell me cause I wanna know.
Just as the plural of "anecdote" is not "fact", the plural of "belief" is also not "fact."
I could point you all to some history and writtings that date so far back all we have is what is written by PEOPLE that were there, as Michi points out we all makes mistakes and over time who knows what the truth is. :D
I can make the following observations about the "Djem tree":
  • A Google search on "Djem tree" currently returns 440 hits, an astonishingly low number.
  • I have looked at all 440 pages. All of them mention the "Djem tree" only in the context of djembes. One cannot help but conclude the djem tree is not used for making anything else but djembes. It's not used for furniture, it's not used for firewood, it's not used for medicinal purposes, it is not used as a building material. Anyone who has been to West Africa will know that people there tend to use every last scrap of every available resource for something or other. This makes it very surprising that the "djem tree" is not mentioned in any other context.
  • A few of the pages that mention the djem tree say that the djem tree is the sycamore fig. However, that tree is not used to make djembes to the best of my knowledge. No master I have studied with (quite a few) has ever mentioned it, none of the academic literature on African percussion mentions it, no shell supplier I have dealt with has ever offered a djembe made out of this wood.
  • No wood species database or other expert wood reference site mentions "djem tree" as a common name for any species of wood.
  • A few of the sites that mention "djem tree" also mention "lenge", which is indeed a traditional wood for djembes. However, that wood is not the same as sycamore fig, and "djem tree" is not a common name for lenge.
  • The majority of the sites that mention "djem tree" have verbatim or near verbatim wording. This makes it clear that we are looking at multiple copies of the same single source (or small number of sources).
  • None of the sites provide a latin species name for the djem tree (which would unambiguously identify the actual species).
  • None of the sites provide a source for their claim. No reference to wood databases, no reference of academic papers or books on musicology, no references to interviews with a master, no other source of any kind.
  • Many of the sites say that the djem tree is found in Mali, and that the word "be" means goat. The word "be" does not mean goat, at least not in Mali.
  • I found one site (http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/s ... clnk&gl=au) that cites Lilian Friedberg (a well-known and respected author on things djembe) as: "Friedberg, Lilian 1993 Djembe: Drum with a Djembe". A literature search reveals that Lilian did not write any article with this title (and the "citation" does not reference any publisher). A search through Lilian's other writings does not reveal any mention of the words "djem tree".
  • None of the sites that claim the djembe is made from the "djem tree" are reputable sources. They all are sites that sell drums, aggregators that just repeat what they have skimmed elsewhere (such as ask.com), sites that are unrelated to djembe drumming, and so on. In other words, not a single reputable or expert source.
Need I really go on?

The plural of "anecdote" continues not to be "fact." Instead, it continues to be "anecdotes."

Michi.
By TNT
#26126
Thank you Michi once again your intellect and open mindedness prevails. You are a prolific writer who takes a scholarly approach to the discussion.

I will not dispute the data on the internet as fact, nor being from a credible source, and thank you for your knowledge on the age of the drum and it's lack of records. We are saying the same thing you just say it much better than I do.

I humble admit my lack of historical knowledge and agree my spiritual believes are not fact to anyone but myself and some that have witnessed them. Maybe when I get some time I'll tell you all how I was recently introduced to the Djembe spiritually, that is if I can do so without offending anyone. :)
User avatar
By e2c
#26127
I'm hoping that Tom will drop in on this thread, or Galen (from Wula)...

michi - I had never heard of that champagne bottle and spoon thing - it sounds utterly ridiculous to me. :)

As for Sule's book, you said it, not me. (And thanks for your candor!) There are all kinds of things in that book that i've never been able to source. But... 'nuff said.

He is a gifted musician, though, and seems like a very nice person.

As for how things are pronounced (in Africa, not here), I have a sneaking suspicion that there's a fair amount of regional variation; also that some terminology might not be as hard and fast as we think - but then, a lot of our terminology isn't exactly written in stone. (And the differences between US English, Canadian English, UK English, Irish English, Aussie English, NZ English and all the variants of African and South Asian English are pretty amazing as well...)

Also, re. drumming in general, there is some pretty wild stuff out there - like When the Drummers Were Women. I have no interest in defending that one, if only because I was trained in historical research and the book is mostly a distortion of a few facts with a heavy layer of mythologizing to finish it off.

Everyone likes a good story - that's why Snopes.com and other sites like it exist. 8)
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By e2c
#26128
Also, "bush telegraph": I have serious doubts as to whether such a thing ever existed, in Central Africa ore elsewhere. That simple phrase has led to all kinds of stories and mythologizing by outsiders (people from the countries that colonized Africa) and I suspect it's a great misrepresentation of things that actually did exist at one time.

It's so very easy to get distorted ideas about all kinds of things if one has no points of reference... and the whole "drum" thing is part of a European concept of Africa - and Africans - that is highly unsavory. (Drums being equated with "primitive" culture, etc. etc. etc. - won't go into some of the other obvious points, as it wouldn't serve any good purpose, imo.)
By TNT
#26129
e2c wrote: As for how things are pronounced (in Africa, not here), I have a sneaking suspicion that there's a fair amount of regional variation; also that some terminology might not be as hard and fast as we think - but then, a lot of our terminology isn't exactly written in stone. (And the differences between US English, Canadian English, UK English, Irish English, Aussie English, NZ English and all the variants of African and South Asian English are pretty amazing as well...) 8)
Agreed. The Afrikaners (Dutch progeny) of South Africa speak their own version of the 'King's English" as well. Shakespearean English is still considered the gold standard by many literary scholars in academia as well as the Christian community (e.g., King James Bible). If there is no written record, no 'original source', no equivalent of the ancient manuscripts or scrolls, all we have to rely on is oral tradition and inter-generational legacy. What is the origin of the Djembe drum and what was its cultural significance? It is interesting to speculate and discuss as well as to create our own meaning and utility. It is a means of communication in the universal language of music, which has an irrefutable spiritual dimension. Expression from the soul of the drummer through the vehicle of his instrument more clearly and emphatically than could ever be verbalized.
User avatar
By michi
#26130
TNT wrote:I humble admit my lack of historical knowledge and agree my spiritual believes are not fact to anyone but myself and some that have witnessed them. Maybe when I get some time I'll tell you all how I was recently introduced to the Djembe spiritually, that is if I can do so without offending anyone. :)
Please do tell! I'm sure that you will not offend anyone.

Many people are playing this instrument precisely because of the spiritual side it offers. For many people (like it was for myself), the djembe can be life-changing. There is more to learn from this instrument than just music…

Cheers,

Michi.
By TNT
#26131
e2c wrote:Also, "bush telegraph": I have serious doubts as to whether such a thing ever existed, in Central Africa ore elsewhere. That simple phrase has led to all kinds of stories and mythologizing by outsiders (people from the countries that colonized Africa) and I suspect it's a great misrepresentation of things that actually did exist at one time.

It's so very easy to get distorted ideas about all kinds of things if one has no points of reference... and the whole "drum" thing is part of a European concept of Africa - and Africans - that is highly unsavory. (Drums being equated with "primitive" culture, etc. etc. etc. - won't go into some of the other obvious points, as it wouldn't serve any good purpose, imo.)
"Distorted ideas" is subjective on its face. Which "points of reference" or contextual data might be lacking? "Drum 'thing"? That the drum is a dominant instrument in Sub Saharan African tribal cultures is essentially indisputable. Any missionary can produce real-time video footage to attest to the fact that it is not only historical, but current. As for European constructs, associating drums with "primitive" customs would certainly not come to my mind. I see it as a positive aspect to be appreciated as an art form at the very least. I am rather puzzled as to what other "obvious points" to which you allude. Perhaps those points, implied to be rather negative connotations, are not so "obvious" in a general sense, and speaking for myself, would you care to expound or elaborate? That is a rhetorical question, of course.
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By e2c
#26132
TNT - maybe off-list. I don't want to get into racial issues and European and American impressions (the bad ones) of Africans and other people of color in this thread.

But please rest assured, I have no intention of denying the fact of drums as part of many African cultures.

They are, however, by no means the only instruments that are dominant in Africa. Various kinds of plucked string instruments are found all over the continent, for example - ditto for flutes, in W. Africa at least.

But I also believe we Westerners are grossly undereducated about African societies, cultures, the art produced by African people, their languages, etc.

That, however, is a topic for yet another thread. :)
User avatar
By michi
#26134
e2c wrote:Also, re. drumming in general, there is some pretty wild stuff out there - like When the Drummers Were Women.
I looked this up and decided that it might be worth reading, if only for amusement value. I tried both the Brisbane City Council library and the Queensland State Library and, unfortunately, neither have the book. After reading a number of reviews on Amazon and looking through the sample pages for the book, I decided not to buy a copy. Too much ideology it seems, and too little research…

Michi.
User avatar
By e2c
#26135
michi wrote:
e2c wrote:Also, re. drumming in general, there is some pretty wild stuff out there - like When the Drummers Were Women.
Too much ideology it seems, and too little research…
That's my take as well.

I heard some really nutty things (on this topic, among others) back in the late 80s when I 1st started studying percussion. People that I knew - who were otherwise pretty sane - were creating their own mythologies about drums and drumming - even ceremonial uses for the djembe - that have nothing whatsoever to do with the cultural backgrounds of the countries from which many hand drums have come, let alone with the actual music played in those places.

I think the bodhran is one of the few exceptions in that respect, if only because a lot of folks who play irish sessions here have studied with irish immigrants - but even so, there's a fringe element that has created some phony mythologies about that drum and about "Celtic" culture in general.

sigh. I get discouraged sometimes, given the massive amount of misinformation out there vs. actual facts and real research, though that's been changing as more people study abroad and as some relatively recent immigrants (from all over the world) are now teaching in the US.

[Some of the drums and drumming traditions that I mentioned above in a general way are from the Arab Middle East, iran, Turkey and Central Asia, fwiw.]
By TNT
#26139
e2c wrote:TNT - maybe off-list. I don't want to get into racial issues and European and American impressions (the bad ones) of Africans and other people of color in this thread.

But please rest assured, I have no intention of denying the fact of drums as part of many African cultures.

They are, however, by no means the only instruments that are dominant in Africa. Various kinds of plucked string instruments are found all over the continent, for example - ditto for flutes, in W. Africa at least.

But I also believe we Westerners are grossly undereducated about African societies, cultures, the art produced by African people, their languages, etc.

That, however, is a topic for yet another thread. :)
Although I concur that it set off sparks "to get into racial issues [regarding] 'bad' [impressions] of 'people of color'", I wonder why, then, you threw it out there with your highly charged introductory statement in the last post. "We Westerners", I would add, are in no way obliged to become educated about "African societies, cultures, the art..." etc. It is completely voluntary. Although I personally have a natural multicultural curiosity, I strongly believe that it should not be imposed on those who have not chosen to live, work or play among these ethnic groups. (Business investors, history professors, missionaries, etc.) Rather, it troubles me that while the onus should be on those foreign-born people who emigrate from their countries of origin to take advantage of our land of opportunity to become familiar with OUR national history and common American culture (values, lifestyle, traditions, etc.) and to assimilate, too often this is not the expectation.

In any case, I find this topic fascinating and, imaginative (albeit plausible) theories as to the origin and development of the djembe drum should be welcomed. Precisely because there is no historical record to resurrect from the archives, anyone's interpretation is as valid as another's. How this unique musical instrument, with its diversity of sound, can be used to express what cannot be communicated with words, should bring about a rich dialogue. There are no negative connotations, in summary, with this drum or any other indigenous African instrument.